Geisinger Health System, one of our area’s largest employers, said, starting February 1, it will no longer hire people who use tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars and chewing or smokeless tobacco.
Within moments of the announcement being posted on WNEP’s Facebook page, the online social site exploded with responses, topping over 700 comments.
Some supported the decision, with Dave writing, “I agree with this move and they are only copying what the Cleveland Clinic has done for years.”
Sarah wrote, “I wouldn’t hire smokers either and that’s my right as a business owner.”
Some were outraged. Katie posted, “What a great way in keeping that nine percent unemployment rate rolling hooah!”
Christine wrote, “I hope none of you smoker haters don’t need a doctor or nurse who smokes to save your life.”
Stephanie wrote, “What right does anyone have to tell me where I can smoke once I’m off the clock?”
Many called the policy flat-out discrimination, however Geisinger said this policy is legal in 20 states, including Pennsylvania and is not discriminatory.
Attorney Mark Powell, who deals in labor and employment law, said it’s all about what’s protected by law.
“There’s no federal protection for smokers,” said Powell. “We have federal employee rights against discrimination but smoking is not a protected class.”
Geisinger’s current policy bans smoking on its properties and says this further step is to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Applicants to Geisinger will be tested for nicotine, however those who fail can re-apply in six months as long as they are nicotine free.
Joel Stephenson works for Community Medical Center in Scranton, which is undergoing a merger with Geisinger. He is a smoker but understands what Geisinger is doing.
“Since we’re trying to take care of all the patients, then the doctors should be able to take care of themselves, even the nurses and everything,” said Stephenson.