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Hospital refuses to hire smokers


By Deborah Kotz

(What do you think? Is this a good idea? Do employers have the right to do this?)

A Michigan hospital says it refuses to hire smokers, going so far as to test applicants for nicotine before allowing them to work there. Two workers were already recently turned down for employment at Crittenton Hospital in Rochester after testing positive for nicotine. They’re following the lead of Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, which implemented the policy last December.Certainly, it makes sense that hospitals and other workplace establishments have no-smoking policies. And university campuses in Massachusetts are required by law to be smoke-free. But not hiring workers who smoke takes this a step further.

Mass. police and fire departments won’t hire smokers. And the Massachusetts Hospital Association raised eyebrows last November when it announced that it was refusing to hire smokers, but it relies on the honor system — not nicotine screening — for enforcement.

Crittenton CEO Lynn Orfgen told CNN that the move saves the hospital in health care costs, “and it’s setting a good example for the community, and I just think it’s the quote-unquote ‘Right thing to do.” Doctors and other Crittenton employees who already smoke can keep their jobs.

Orfgen adds that the hospital is working on helping promote healthy lifestyle choices like weight management programs for overweight employees like herself. I’m wondering whether the hospital eventually plans to bar prospective employees based on their weight since that, too, causes a spike in health care costs.

What do you think? Should workplaces be able to bar workers for smoking like they do for those who use illegal drugs? Or do you think it’s discrimination?

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