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Hiring a Nanny Who Smokes

You have a non-smoking household.  You are seeking to hire a nanny.  You’ve found a wonderfully qualified nanny, but she smokes.  What do you do?

1.      What are your state’s laws regarding smokers’ rights and employment?  Can you legally refuse to hire a nanny because they smoke?  Are domestic employees entitled to paid or unpaid breaks?  Can you refuse to let an employee smoke, even on her break time?

2.      If you offer her the job, ensure that she knows that yours is a non-smoking household.  Make clear your expectations about when and where she can smoke.  For example, will you require her to smoke only outside (such as in your backyard) or not at all on your property?  Will you allow her to smoke in front of your children if there is sufficient airflow to minimize the risks of second-hand smoke?  For example, what if she takes your children to a public park . . . can she smoke outside, in the public park, when the great outdoors minimizes the concentration of smoke around your children?  Provisions clarifying your expectations should be included in your nanny contract.

3.      Discuss with her how her smoking should be discussed with your children.  For example, you may say, “Before your first day of employment, I will tell the children that you smoke.  We will talk about the health risks and other challenges associated with smoking.  I would prefer that you then wait for one of the children to initiate discussion with you about smoking.  When one of them does bring up the subject, I would like you to tell the children, just as you told me, that you began smoking before you knew how many serious risks were associated with smoking and that you would like to quit but have found it difficult due to the addiction element involved.  It’s ok to talk with the children about the physical and psychological elements of addiction, but please do so in an age-appropriate manner.  Our goal is for them to see that, even though you smoke, you don’t recommend the practice to anyone.”

4.      Discuss sanitation and fire hazard mitigation with her.  For example, where should extinguished cigarettes be placed?  What is to happen if she smokes outside on a dry, windy day . . . what spark containment measures should she employ?

5.      If childcare will occur in your home and smoking will occur on your property, you may need to notify your homeowner’s insurance carrier.  It is likely that, when you first applied for that insurance policy, you notified the insurance company that yours was a non-smoking household.  The insurance company assessed its risk in insuring you based on that and other information that you provided.  If that information changes, you may be well advised (or required) to inform the insurance company of those changes.

By proceeding as specified above, you can hire a nanny who smokes and successfully incorporate her into your non-smoking household and family.

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