Hospital Receptionist Claims She Was Fired for Smelling Like Cigarette Smoke

A Fridley woman named Stephanie Cannon believes she’s the victim of discrimination — fired because she smelled like cigarette smoke.

Cannon, a smoker for 18 years, says she smokes almost a pack a day of Camel Menthols. But when she landed a job in June as a medical receptionist at Park Nicollet Health Services, in the Frauenshuh Cancer Center, she says she followed the hospital’s clearly-stated “no smoking” policy. (There is no smoking allowed at any time on the premises.)

“There were never any performance issues at all,” Cannon insists.

Yet six weeks after she started she says her supervisor told her, “We don’t want you smelling like smoke when you come here.”

Cannon says she did everything she could to get rid of the stench. “I stopped smoking on my breaks, I wouldn’t smoke in my car, I bought new clothes,” she claims. At home, she would keep her work clothes in a sealed plastic bag and then spray them with air freshener after she put them on before work.

It wasn’t enough. Cannon claims she was told to “avoid my husband in the morning” because he also smokes. She says she was also encouraged to shower at the hospital–before work–instead of at home. And she says she was given a list of resources for people trying to quit smoking, even though she wasn’t trying–or interested. “Not now,” she says. “The time isn’t right.”

Last week, Park Nicollet told her, “We have to let you go.”

The law in Minnesota states that an employer can’t refuse to hire you (or fire you) if you do something that’s not against the law (like smoking) if it takes place off the premises during non-work hours.

That means even if smoking isn’t allowed at work, you can‘t be fired for smoking at homeon your own time.

Or does it?

Turns our that under the law, employers canrestrict the use of legal products like tobacco if they believe it’s creating an occupation-related hazard.

According to Chuck Samuelson of the American Civil Liberties Union, “Basically your rights as a a smoker end where other people’s noses begin. In fact you can make the argument that your rights as a smoker end when other people breathe in the air that comes off of you.”

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