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Smoker Fired for Smelling Like Cigarette Smoke — Is It Fair? [POLL]

Daniel Barry, Getty Images

Smoking is banned in a lot of places, since people don’t want to breathe in the fumes. But to fire someone from their job for smelling like smoke seems a bit excessive, no? Turns out it’s a loaded argument.

Stephanie Cannon, of Fridley, MN, believes that she was fired from her job as a medical receptionist at Park Nicollet Health Services, which is a cancer center, since she smelled like cigarette smoke from smoking while off the clock. We’re not even going to address the irony of a smoker working at a cancer center at this point.

Cannon smokes a pack a day and has been lighting up for 18 years. But when she got her new job in June, she strictly adhered to the company’s clearly-posted “no smoking” policy. Smoking is prohibited on the premises.

Cannon insists there were no performance issues but her supervisor did warn her that they didn’t want her reeking of smoke when she came to work. They also offered her materials related to quitting.

She stopped smoking on breaks and in her car, and even bought new clothes. She was encouraged to shower at the hospital, as opposed to at home, and avoided her smoker husband in the morning. She tried to put her work clothes in a separate bag and Fabrezed them, but six weeks later, she was fired.

She is considering talking to an attorney and said, “What I do in my home or outside of work when I’m not punching into that little clock is what my business. I shouldn’t have to be made like I’m a leper.”

The ACLU believes private employers, like the hospital, can restrict smokers’ legal activities outside of work. “Private employers can do things that governmental agencies cannot, to their employees,” the ACLU’s Chuck Samuelson said.

The age-old smokers versus non-smokers and their right to breathe clean, fresh air argument also comes into play. Samuelson said, “You’ve got one person’s desire to indulge in a legal activity versus the government’s duty to protect the population as whole from known bad things (like second-hand smoke),” Samuelson said.


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