Employee Smoking & Ride Share Updates

In last week’s post, I discussed the ability of an employer to fire an employee who began smoking cigarettes after they were hired.  A couple of weeks before that, I talked about ISO’s new motor vehicle insurance policy forms that addressed the use of a personal passenger vehicle for ride sharing through Uber and similar services.  Since then, I have watched a webinar that focused on what an employer could do about the former, as well as many other things their employees may be doing, which raised a question about the use of e-cigarettes by employees.  I have also discovered another reason your agency’s customers should think long and hard about whether they want to use their motor vehicle for ride sharing services.

The webinar was titled “Can My Company Ban That?” and discussed what employers could and could not do with respect to employees who had tattoos, body piercings, personal hygiene issues, engaged in conduct while not at work that was against the employer’s values, brought weapons to work, dated co-employees, or spoke a foreign language.  It also addressed what could be done to control the use of social media and cell phones by employees.  While the webinar was not specific to Georgia law, it provided a good overview of the general rules applicable to all the above subjects and is worth watching if you have any questions about them.

I thought it an interesting coincidence that one of the examples used to explain how the general rules worked involved the use of e-cigarettes by an employee of a small insurance agency.  The employee insisted they had a right to use them at work because it was not illegal.  As the readers of my blog post last week know, under Georgia law, that does not matter, as the employer has the right to ban any conduct at work and to fire an employee for engaging in conduct outside of work, as long as such conduct is not protected by law .  For those employers with less than 15 employees of any kind, that means they can pretty much do whatever they want about employee conduct both at and outside of work, as long as it does not interfere with an employee’s right to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with other employees.  However, as noted in the webinar, there may well be practical reasons for an employer not to exercise this right to its full extent and for employers with 15 or more employees, there are legal reasons, as well.

As some of my readers may know, Georgia law specifies the reasons why a personal motor vehicle insurance policy can be cancelled.  (Click here for an article I wrote on that subject for the Dec Page magazine.)  One of those reasons is the use of the covered vehicle for “carrying passengers for hire or compensation.”  The same reason can be lawfully used to non-renew such a policy.  Any agent whose customer is using or thinking about using their personal vehicle to give rides through Uber or a similar service should make sure the customer is aware that their insurance policy on that vehicle can be cancelled if the insurance company finds out.  In areas where these services are offered, an agent may want to consider including a notice about that fact with each such policy issued.