Smokers Need Not Apply

John (Gold)
Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

21 Feb 2005, 06:14 #11

Corporate smokeout
As city considers ban, employers talk tough
By Dana Knight, [url=mailto:dana.knight@indystar.com]dana.knight@indystar.com[/url]
February 20, 2005
Driving a truck for Towne Air Freight is a smoke-free affair. It doesn't matter that truckers are alone on the open highway miles from their Indianapolis branch. If they light up one too many times, they're fired.

Employees at Lowe's Home Improvement stores sneak to their cars to puff on cigarettes -- which are banned not just inside, but on company property outside, including parking lots and cars.

And at CorVasc MD Mickie Montano huddles away from the building to enjoy her smoke, feeling a bit guilty as the doctors and surgeons stride past her.

She is one of six smokers left at the 170-person cardiothoracic and vascular surgical company, which has taken an aggressive approach to helping its workers become smoke-free.

Within weeks, Montano will get a nudge from CorVasc to quit after more than 40 years as the company pays for an intense, one-on-one counseling program, as well as patches and gum.

"It's hard for me because I have that rebellious streak in me," said Montano, an executive secretary who said she is quitting to save money and the lives of her two cats. "That may be what has stopped me from quitting in the past. I've been like, 'What do you mean I can't smoke?' "

As the city of Indianapolis considers a proposal that would ban smoking in restaurants, bars, parks and public places, people such as Montano say it's beginning to feel like home is the only place they can conveniently and shamelessly light up. Nearly 70 percent of the nation's workplaces now are smoke-free, up from 35 percent in 1990, as employers work to reduce the health-care costs associated with smoking.

At least one Indiana lawmaker is interested in restricting smokers' options even more. State Sen. Murray Clark, R-Indianapolis, sponsored two measures this year that would have allowed employers to ban workers from smoking off-duty and let them hire and fire employees based solely on whether they are tobacco users.

Both proposals stalled in a legislative committee over some legislators' concerns that they constitute an invasion of privacy. He plans to try again next year with a proposal that would give employers the right to discriminate strictly when it comes to hiring tobacco users.

"I really don't think smokers should be a protected class," said Clark, who said he is not encouraging employers to fire workers who smoke but does think they should have the right to rein in health care costs.

Indiana is now a smoker's rights state, meaning employers are not allowed to tell workers they can't smoke on their own time.

Employers are allowed to ban it at the workplace and on company time -- and they're doing it. Many more are strongly encouraging workers to kick the habit through incentives and in-depth cessation programs, mainly to eliminate rising health care costs, lost productivity and absenteeism.

"A lot of companies didn't realize how much money goes down the drain when they have smokers," said Malcolm Herring, medical director of the Bridges Nicotine Dependence Services program at CorVasc, which combines nicotine replacement therapy with intense individual counseling and has a 40 percent success rate.

Smoking costs American businesses as much as $125 billion per year, and smokers cost an average of $1,429 more per year than nonsmokers. The average insurance claim of a heavy smoker is $70, compared with $61 for a nonsmoker. The average in-patient stay for a heavy smoker is $700, compared with $575 for a nonsmoker.

Workers who light up take more sick days, have longer hospital stays and take unscheduled leaves that add up to 136 hours of nonproductive paid work time per year, according to Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation.

Health care costs prompted Howard Weyers to take extreme measures. In January, the president of Okemos, Mich.-based Weyco began testing his 200 employees for tobacco use.

Four who refused to take the mandatory Breathalyzer test were fired from the insurance benefits company. The remaining 196 passed. It's a case that prompted a whirlwind of national media coverage.

"I didn't expect that. Our initiative is to get employees healthier. We want to control the cost of health care down the road," said Weyers, who estimates he spends $750,000 a year on employee health premiums.

Weyers has the legal right to fire tobacco-using workers. Indiana employers don't.

"It is fine for an (Indiana) employer to ask an applicant whether he or she smokes, but if that question is asked, the employer should make it clear that smoking on his or her own time is acceptable," said Michael Blickman, a labor and employment attorney with law firm Ice Miller.

But employees should not get greedy about lighting up. They don't have the right to smoke at work, Blickman added.

"We don't allow smoking on our property or in our trucks," said Jerry Scott, vice president of human resources for Towne Air, headquartered in South Bend, Ind. "The image of a trucker with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth, we wanted to get rid of that."

Image and health issues prompted the 1,000- employee air cargo trucking company to become smoke-free. Employees are warned, but if they are found smoking a fourth time, they are terminated, Scott said.

Lowe's implemented a policy more than a year ago that required all of its locations inside and outside to be smoke-free, said spokeswoman Jennifer Smith. The Mooresville, N.C.-based home-improvement retailer gave employees months of advance notice and offered help for them to quit before it implemented the rule.

"Again, we are not telling employees to stop smoking. We are simply saying it is not permitted on our property," said Smith.

Sand Ridge Bank in Schererville, Ind., was a leader in smoke-free initiatives in the early 1990s when it put into place a policy not to hire smokers at all.

Shortly after the adoption of the anti-smoking worker rule, the state legislature enacted the smokers' rights bill and Sand Ridge had to change its hiring practices.

Sand Ridge decided to lead and encourage not through its hiring and firing practices but by offering help, said Guy Staska, vice president of human resources.

The bank began offering cessation classes to employees and their spouses. It also agreed to pay for six months of nicotine replacement therapy (such as the patch) as long as the employee remained nicotine-free for six months more. If not, the worker is required to repay Sand Ridge for the patches.

It hasn't yet banned smoking completely from its property.

"If you want to smoke in the car, I can't stop you from doing that," said Staska. "Well, I guess I can, but we're not going to do that."

Employers, beware

Rebecca Hastings, manager of the information center for the Society of Human Resource Management, warned employers against adopting policies that single workers out because of their lifestyle choices.

If an employee works for the American Cancer Society or as a perfume salesperson, it might make sense to have a ban that covers even off-duty smoking. Otherwise, such a ban seems intrusive, Hastings said.

"We would not recommend that anyone take an action against or single out someone for lifestyle choice," Hastings said. "It usually doesn't work out really well."

Taken to the extreme, such lifestyle policies could end up prohibiting workers from eating junk food or watching too much television, opponents say.

Attorneys such as Blickman said such policies might be legal but could open an employer to a discrimination lawsuit.

Banning illegal drug use, however, is perfectly acceptable because such activity is a crime, HR professionals said.

But testing for cigarette use, even in states where employers are allowed to impose off-duty bans, is a questionable practice, said Steve Wassman, account manager with the Angott Search Group in Detroit.

"I think it's a decidedly gray area," he said. "I think what's wild about it is the proverbial slippery slope. Where could it lead?"
Copyright 2005 IndyStar.com. All rights reserved
Last edited by John (Gold) on 07 Jul 2009, 15:11, edited 1 time in total.
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smokefreeJD Gold
Joined: 19 Dec 2008, 00:06

24 Dec 2005, 03:14 #12

Just a quick message to share a neat sign I saw while I was driving to work this morning.
Like many areas there's new housing developments being born seemingly overnight. One of the jobsites which is heavy into the construction process has a mini sign nailed to the main sign that displays the construction company name.
It reads: "This is a tobacco free construction zone." (Not just smoke free, but tobacco free.)
Now that's something you don't see every day, at least I haven't.
The message couldn't be any more clear: Smokers need not apply!
Jill Image
Kicking Butt for 3 Years 2 Months+
Last edited by smokefreeJD Gold on 07 Jul 2009, 15:12, edited 1 time in total.
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Joel
Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

18 Oct 2006, 23:13 #13

With so many companies now a days being smoke free by the employer's choice, not to mention whole states that are banning smoking in worksite establishments that serve the public, being a smoker is likely going to be a greater liability now for anyone in a job seeking mode. Smoking can no longer just be considered an addiction that should be viewed as case of personal suicide, it can now be viewed as a case of professional suicide too. For economic, personal, professional and health reasons the only logical conclusion is to never take another puff! Joel
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Joel
Joined: 18 Dec 2008, 23:57

02 Oct 2008, 02:27 #14

With so many companies now a days being smoke free by the employer's choice, not to mention whole states that are banning smoking in worksite establishments that serve the public, being a smoker is likely going to be a greater liability now for anyone in a job seeking mode. Smoking can no longer just be considered an addiction that should be viewed as case of personal suicide, it can now be viewed as a case of professional suicide too. For economic, personal, professional and health reasons the only logical conclusion is to never take another puff!
Joel
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FreedomNicotine
Joined: 06 Dec 2008, 16:58

10 Dec 2008, 19:41 #15

Joel's Reinforcement Library
Image


Smokers Need Not Apply!


In recent years this message has begun to appear at the end of job descriptions in many different fields. Except for the closing clause, some of these positions seemed perfect for a current smoker. The smoker may feel such hiring practices are discriminatory and feel great resentment toward the prospective employer.

In fact, some companies are now implementing no smoking rules for current employees. Where once the smoker was able to smoke at his or her desk without a hassle, now they must go to designated areas. And in some cases, they may not be able to smoke at all for eight hours a day due to total bans on smoking. Even though an employer may face animosity from such an anti-smoking policy from existing employees, prospective applicants, and even some clients, the practice is gaining popularity in the business community.

Why would management be in favor of such restrictions on smokers? Because a smoking employee is a financial liability. Estimates of the additional costs of an average smoking employee range from several hundred to several thousands of dollars per year. Multiplied by several employees, smoking may end up costing an employer tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Smokers cost more due to increased medical costs, higher insurance premiums, decreased productivity, more illnesses, and more accidents. Besides this, employee morale becomes affected when the second hand smoke issue surfaces. All in all, the economical and logistical burden placed on an employer due to employee smoking is substantial.

It used to be that all a smoker had to worry about were the crippling and deadly effects of smoking. Then the social stigma became a major concern. But now he must also consider the professional ramifications of smoking. After all, if he can't find work, it will become increasingly difficult to afford a several hundred dollar a year addiction to cigarettes.

Being a smoker can limit your potential for physical, mental, social, professional and economic growth. Today, being personally and professionally successful is a difficult venture. All smoking will do is further complicate an already overly complicated situation. Besides this, the physical assault of smoking will affect your health and may eventually cost you your life. Is smoking worth all these risks? If you don't think so then - NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!


Joel


© Joel Spitzer 1986, 2000
Page last updated by Joel Spitzer on August 25, 2003


WhyQuit.Com | Joel's Library | [url=mailto:quitsmoking@joelspitzer.com]Email Joel[/url] | Cost of Smoking Index | Next Article
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Last edited by FreedomNicotine on 07 Jul 2009, 14:51, edited 2 times in total.
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JohnPolito
Joined: 11 Nov 2008, 19:22

20 Jan 2010, 13:47 #16

Although we each have opinions as to the limits society should be able to go in protecting non-smokers from having to breathe cigarette smoke, Freedom's non-debate policy does not permit such debates here.  As you know, debates tend to divide and polarize groups, exactly the opposite of what's needed if we're going to unite and get behind teaching and supporting the forum's newest arrivals.  Still,  we will continue sharing news of forces being felt by the world's smokers in hopes that none of us will ever want these problems to be ours again.  Still just one rule ... no nicotine today!  John    


Tenn. healthcare system won't hire smokers By danb
Created Jan 19 2010 - 1:02pm
Smokers need not apply at Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Memorial Health Care System. In a controversial move that some call bold and others label as discriminatory, the Southeast's' leading medical system won't hire anyone who uses tobacco or nicotine products.

Beginning Feb. 1, anyone offered a job will be screened for tobacco and nicotine use, on top of tests already conducted for illegal drugs and alcohol, the organization recently announced. If a potential employee tests positive for tobacco or nicotine, his or her job offer will be withdrawn and they won't be able to reapply for six months. The new rule doesn't affect those who already work at Memorial and who use tobacco products. 

Brad Pope, Memorial's vice president for human resources, told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the decision was made "for the health of our community," and said it was a move that should have been expected. 

But Dr. Michael Siegel, a tobacco-control researcher who teaches at the Boston University School of Public Health, compares the move to an employer not hiring based on nutrition and/or exercise habits. "What it's basically saying is the private behavior of people in their own homes is somehow relevant to their qualifications to work in a workplace," Siegel said. 

But some smokers though, including Memorial ICU nurse Mike Sullivan, say the new rule is a good idea. Sullivan hopes to work part-time for the hospital after he retires. "It would be a good incentive to quit," Sullivan said.

On average, smokers cost employers between $2,500 and $4,000 annually for healthcare costs in comparison to nonsmokers, a Tennessee health department official told the Times Free Press.



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Published on FierceHealthcare (http://www.fiercehealthcare.com)

© 2009 FierceMarkets, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last edited by JohnPolito on 25 Jan 2010, 21:15, edited 1 time in total.
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JohnPolito
Joined: 11 Nov 2008, 19:22

19 Oct 2010, 01:01 #17

Job Applicant Nicotine Screening
We're increasingly seeing stories about nicotine being included as part of a standard drug screen test for job applicants. While this raises a host of debatable topics that are clearly inappropriate for Freedom (such as discrimination, creation of second class citizens, disability rights, and who is to blame for 90% of adult smokers becoming hooked while children or teens) , these stories may help fuel the determination of some of us to never again have such issues or concerns causing us worry. Just one rule ... no nicotine today! John


Central Pa. hospital system won't hire smokers

The Associated Press - Posted on Sat, Nov. 21, 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa. - Prospective employees at a central Pennsylvania hospital chain will now be tested for nicotine when they apply for jobs.

Beginning Jan. 1, Susquehanna Health System won't be hiring smokers. The system consists of Williamsport, Divine Providence and Muncy Valley hospitals.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says the system is the first in the state to ban the hiring of smokers.

Susquehanna Health spokeswoman Tracy Witter says all job applicants will have to pass a nicotine screening, in addition to the current drug test.

The policy covers all new hires. An applicant who fails the screening could reapply for a job in 90 days.

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union in Harrisburg says the policy doesn't raise civil rights issues because tobacco users aren't a protected class.





Story Online Source Link
© 2009 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved
© 2009 PennLive LLC. All Rights Reserved
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FreedomNicotine
Joined: 06 Dec 2008, 16:58

06 Nov 2010, 12:39 #18

MA Hospital Assn Refusing to Hire Smokers, Will Slash Costs
Growing Trend Goes Well Beyond Health Organizations

Ash.org   Nov. 5, 2010

The Massachusetts Hospital Association [MHA] is the latest in a growing number of business and governmental bodies refusing to hire applicants who smoke - a move which could save them more than $10,000 a year for every nonsmoking person they employ - says Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the organization which has pioneered and promoted the right of companies to slash their costs with such policies.

Insisting upon a smoke-free workforce, similar to a drug-free workforce, is nothing new, and is certainly not restricted to health organizations, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, Executive Director of ASH, nothing that the Alexandria (VA) fire department adopted such a policy more than thirty years ago, and that many governmental bodies likewise have similar rules.

Today, organizations as diverse as Alaska Airlines, the Union Pacific Railroad Company, the Kalamazoo Community College in Michigan, and Weyco, a Michigan- based benefits administration company, have written policies against hiring smokers, and many more companies apparently have unwritten policies against hiring smokers, or simply give great preference to hiring nonsmokers.

Many courts have held that, in the absence of specific laws directed specifically at the issue, it is lawful for compa nies - and both lawful and constitutional for governmental bodies - to refuse to hire smokers. http://ash.org/norighttosmoke

Moreover, although many states have laws purporting to prohibit alleged "discrimination" against smokers in employment, both ASH and the American Medical Association [AMA] have reported that there are many easy ways to get around them.

For example, notes Banzhaf, one company in a state with such a law simply prohibits anyone from setting foot on its property if they have any discernible odor of tobacco smoke on their person. Thus, although a smoker could theoretically be employed there, he would probably have to shower, completely change clothing, shampoo his hair, and brush his teeth after every smoke, suggests Banzhaf.

Other companies simply prohibit smoking anywhere on their property - including even in private cars on parking lots - thereby likewise making it virtually impossible for daily smokers to remain employed

ASH has done a study which shows that a single smoking employee can cost his employer more than $10,000 a year more in health care costs, increased disability payments, time lost from work, decreased productivity, and other expenses - costs which might otherwise have to be paid by the great majority of employees who do not smoke in the form of fewer medical benefits and/or higher health insurance premiums.

In a related development, a recent study shows that smokers tend to waste a hour a day on additional smoking breaks, but that employers are beginning to crack down, either prohibiting such breaks or forcing workers to clock out while smoking on company time.

Companies are increasingly taking a variety of measures to slash the huge and totally unnecessary costs smoking imposes on their businesses, says Banzhaf, noting that almost half of all l arge companies already penalize employees' unhealthy behaviors, and that many more are moving to do so. http://www.disabled-world...harmaceutical/addicti...

It also appears that there is growing public support for penalizing smokers, especially as nonsmokers begin to realize that smoking costs the American economy almost $200 billion a year, and that most of that cost is borne by nonsmokers in the form of higher taxes (e.g., for costs under Medicare and Medicaid) and bloated health insurance premiums. http://www.prlog.org/1072...rows-for-penalizing-e...

Fortunately, the new health care reform legislation permits charging smokers 50% more than nonsmokers for health insurance, a provision ASH helped to insure was part of this legislation. Many companies, as well as about a dozen states, are already doing so.

"There is no legal, moral, or ethical right to smoke, and smokers certainly have no right to force the great majority of Americans who are nonsmokers to bear the huge and totally unnecessary costs of their habit," concludes Banzhaf, who encourages companies and governmental bodies to take steps to prevent this manifest unfairness.
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JohnPolito
Joined: 11 Nov 2008, 19:22

20 Dec 2010, 13:58 #19

Smokers need not apply
Warning: Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your career.
By Brenda J. Buote

Boston Globe Correspondent / December 19, 2010

ImageUnder a new policy believed to be the first of its kind for a hospital in Massachusetts, Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport last month began testing prospective employees for nicotine use. Those who fail the screening can forget about a job. The rejected candidates are told to reapply in six months — if they've quit puffing by then. "As a health care facility, we believe it's our right to say we don't want any smoke in our building or on our employees," said Deb Chiaravalloti, spokeswoman for Anna Jaques. "We are taking a stand, saying that if you smoke you cannot work here because we are promoting good health. We want to have as healthy an environment as we can for our employees and patients."

The hospital’s new hiring policy is part of a national trend as a growing number of private companies, citing concerns about the health and productivity of their employees as well as spiraling health insurance costs, strive to influence workers’ personal habits.

Nationwide, roughly 63 percent of companies now offer a cash bonus to employees who complete a health risk questionnaire, up from 35 percent in 2009, and more than half offer incentives for employee participation in health improvement programs, according to a national survey by the consulting firm Hewitt Associates.

At Anna Jaques, employees who voluntarily take and pass four health screenings — for blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, and nicotine — receive a $500 deposit to their health saver account each year they pass the tests; about 47 percent of the hospital’s 1,000-person workforce participates in the program.

As premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance balloon — swell ing 8 percent this year after a 7 percent jump in 2009, according to a national survey conducted by Hewitt Associates in partnership with the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs of leading US businesses — companies are trying to influence workers’ behavior with financial incentives and penalties. Often, such initiatives target smokers, in part because of the high cost of treating smoking-related illnesses. A 2006 study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health found that smoking deals a $6 billion blow to the Commonwealth’s economy each year in health care costs and lost productivity.

Faced with such sobering statistics, a growing number of companies are imposing higher premiums for smokers or offering incentives for kicking the nicotine habit, according to Susan K. Lessack, a labor and employment law attorney with Pepper Hamilton. Other employers, including Anna Jaques, are going a step farther and eliminating smoke — and sometimes smokers — from the workplace altogether.

Lessack noted two well-publicized examples. Weyco Inc., a Michigan-based medical benefits administrator, grabbed national headlines in 2005 when it issued an ultimatum to the smokers on its payroll: Quit smoking or be fired. And in Wilton, N.H., Kimball Physics, a manufacturer of scientific instruments, gained note in the early 1990s when workers there adopted a ban on the use and possession of tobacco in company buildings and vehicles parked on company premises. The policy goes so far as to ban “tobacco-residuals emitting persons,’’ defined as anyone who has used a tobacco product within the last two hours, from entering a Kimball Physics building.

Here in Massachusetts, the Scotts Co. found itself under a national spotlight in 2006 when Scott Rodrigues, a Bourne smoker, sued the Ohio-based lawn care firm for dismissing him after a drug test found nicotine in his urine, a violation of a company policy forbidding employees from smoking on or off the job. A federal judge dismissed Rodrigues’s lawsuit last year. The case sent a clear signal to Bay State employers: Smokers can be filtered out.

Just last month, the Massachusetts Hospital Association announced that as of Jan. 1, the organization will no longer hire smokers for its 45-person workforce. Association president Lynn Nicholas said the initiative builds on the organization’s existing policy of having a workplace free of tobacco.

“MHA is proud to take this groundbreaking step to promote public health,’’ Nicholas said in a prepared statement. She noted that in Massachusetts, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease; more than 8,000 residents die each year from tobacco-related causes. “We hope more hospitals, health systems. and businesses throughout Massachusetts follow our course.’’

Critics say such hiring policies are too intrusive and could be a slippery slope. If employers screen out smokers, who else might they seek to ban from their workplaces in the future? The morbidly obese? People who engage in perilous hobbies, like hang gliding or scuba diving?

“There is little you do in your private life that does not impact your health. That includes just about everything, right down to your sex life,’’ said Lewis L. Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, a spinoff of the American Civil Liberties Union that strives to ensure employees’ rights. “So once you say it’s OK for your boss to meddle in those areas of your private life that affect your health care costs, you might as well kiss your private life goodbye.’’

According to the ACLU, at least 6,000 American companies attempt to regulate off-duty smoking and other private behaviors. The ACLU characterizes a company’s refusal to hire smokers as “lifestyle discrimination.’’

Thirty states and the District of Columbia have enacted lifestyle antidiscrimination laws that prohibit employers from refusing to hire workers for engaging in legal activities while off-duty and away from the employer’s premises. This includes smoking, drinking, and overeating.

Massachusetts has no such lifestyle statute on the books, according to Barbara Green, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. “Smokers are not considered a protected class,’’ she said. “They are not covered by [civil rights] laws that protect people from discrimination on the basis of religion, race, ethnicity, age, gender or disability.’’

Still, legal experts say companies that choose to implement policies banning smokers should tread carefully. Such policies may inadvertently discriminate against certain classes of people. Studies have shown that young women and people of color smoke in disproportionately high numbers. By refusing to hire smokers, employers may unfairly target otherwise protected classes of people.

“Regardless of the motivation, employers need to carefully consider the possible legal implications of adopting policies that target smokers,’’ said Lessack, the labor and employment law attorney.

So far, no one has challenged Anna Jaques’s new hiring policy, which took effect Nov. 18. The policy was implemented in year two of a three-year no-smoking plan championed by the hospital’s board of trustees. Last year, Anna Jaques banned employees from smoking on campus, inspiring a dozen people to successfully complete a smoking cessation program offered by the hospital. Next year, the smoking ban will be expanded to include visitors.

“There is nothing illegal about our decision to implement a nonsmoking hiring policy,’’ said Stephen F. Salvo, vice president of human resources at Anna Jaques. “There are those who may disagree with our decision, but many others who are very supportive of it. The hospital will not implement any policy that illegally discriminates against an individual or protected class.’’
Brenda J. Buote can be reached at [url=mailto:brenda.buote@gmail.com]brenda.buote@gmail.com[/url].

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.
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JohnPolito
Joined: 11 Nov 2008, 19:22

27 Apr 2011, 15:13 #20

Does Your Résumé Say 'Non-Smoker'?
ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses - April 27, 2011 7:39 AM by Valerie Newitt 

"Smokers Need Not Apply." That sign was theoretically hoisted by the human resources department at St. Luke's Hospital & Health Network in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley one year ago.



The network consists of five hospitals and some 7,000 employees serving 46,000 patients annually. St. Luke's is the second largest employer in that region, so when it implemented a nicotine-free hiring policy, more than a few sparks flew.

Yet no one was more surprised at the pushback than Robert Zimmel, vice president of human resources at the health network and architect of the smoke-free employees ideal.

"We're a health care organization, so it seemed like a reasonable thing to do. We grandfathered existing employees who smoked, so no one lost their job," Zimmel explained. "But going forward, we would only hire non-smokers. I didn't think there would be any reaction at all."

Speaking at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia last week, Zimmel said reactions came swiftly and promptly, beginning with front page headlines the very next day. They were followed by invitations to appear on national news programs. He accepted the opportunity to appear on Shephard Smith's Fox News segment, and was a bit disconcerted by the host's line of questioning.

"What's next? Are you going to ban employees who jump out of planes because they are an insurance risk?" asked Smith.

"I never saw exact statistics on that," retorted Zimmel, "but I know for sure that smoking causes disease."

It's interesting how people throw stones at a health organization seeking to employ healthy individuals. Yet even Zimmel noted that indeed this was not all about health. There were also cost considerations: Statistics show that smokers lose an average of 6 work days a year, almost twice the absenteeism of those who have never smoked, and are twice as likely to be limited in the type and amount of work they can handle. Clearly, the promise of fewer sick days, no smoking breaks, and lower health insurance costs all added up to good fiscal sense.

But there was still more to it than that, said Zimmel -- an underlying philosophy of healing-by-example. "At the end of the day, I feel proud at the decision to go nicotine-free because I knew it was the right thing to do. And I'd do it all over again," said Zimmel. Furthermore, he said the hospital has had absolutely no problem recruiting employees. "There are many quality professionals out there who do not smoke. We have had no problems whatsoever. None."

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