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Grusendorf v. City of Oklahoma City

Tenth Circuit Finds City's Policy Reasonable

Grusendorf argued that the city's anti-smoking policy violated his liberty and privacy rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. He claimed, based on U.S. Supreme Court cases recognizing various privacy rights, that under the Fourteenth Amendment he has a right to be left alone in the conduct of his private life, which includes the right to smoke. The city, on the other hand, argued that its anti-smoking policy did not implicate any privacy rights, because the Supreme Court has limited the scope of privacy rights protected by the Due Process Clause to privacy rights of an intimate, personal nature, such as the right to abortion, to educate one's children, and to marriage.

The court partially disagreed with the city's position. The court noted that although smoking does not implicate the same privacy concerns that marriage, procreation, and child-rearing do, the city's policy extended far beyond the workplace and regulated Grusendorf's conduct in his own home. The court reasoned that in the 1976 case of Kelley v. Johnson the Supreme Court assumed, without ultimately deciding the issue, that a public employee has a privacy interest in matters of personal appearance, and concluded that smoking was similar to personal appearance. Thus, the court of appeals assumed that Grusendorf had a privacy interest in smoking outside of work.

Nevertheless, the court concluded that the city's anti-smoking policy did not violate Grusendorf's right to privacy. In Kelley, the Supreme Court concluded that a city policy relating to the personal appearance and activities of public safety employees, such as police officers and firefighters, does not violate an employee's privacy rights unless the employee shows "that there is no rational connection between the regulation . . . and the promotion of safety of persons and property." Applying this test, the court of appeals concluded that the city's anti-smoking policy was rationally related to protecting property and personal safety. The court reasoned that cigarette smoking is hazardous to health, and that the city has an interest in making sure that its firefighters are in good health and physical conditioning. The court also reasoned that firefighters face health risks due to smoke inhalation, and that smoking can increase these risks. Accordingly, the court concluded that the city's anti-smoking policy did not violate Grusendorf's privacy rights.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Grusendorf v. City of Oklahoma City - Significance, Tenth Circuit Finds City's Policy Reasonable, Impact, Further Readings