France’s new ban on smoking in public places has collided with its 35-hour workweek, said A.J. in Paris’ Le Figaro. In a landmark lawsuit several years ago, a heavy smoker successfully sued his employer for back wages. The employer had been requiring the smoker to work extra hours unpaid to make up for his many cigarette breaks. The judge ruled that the occasional pause to smoke doesn’t count as off-the-clock as long as the worker is “thinking about work” while smoking. It was a great victory for workers. But now that smokers have to go outside to smoke, the lawsuit’s precedent could be disastrous for employers. Each ciggie break can take 10 minutes, when you factor in waiting for the elevator, leaving the building, smoking, and returning. A worker who smokes just 10 cigarettes a day will spend an appalling hour and 40 minutes out of his seven-hour day just to support his habit. Hiring tobacco addicts is simply not cost-effective. What was supposed to be a ban on smoking may end up as“a ban on smokers.”
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