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Hospital Joins Ranks of Employers Spurning Applicants who Smoke
 

By Kathy Gurchiek  8/14/2008
 

Even people who smoke outside of work need not apply at Akron Children’s Hospital when, beginning Nov. 1, 2008, the Ohio facility will rescind offers of employment to job applicants who test positive for nicotine.

The hospital adopted a tobacco-free policy two years ago that bans cigarette and other tobacco use on hospital property, including parking areas, outdoor grounds and off-site locations.

The new policy, which began Aug. 1, is being implemented incrementally, the hospital announced July 28. Between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, new hires will be tested for nicotine as part of the pre-employment panel of medical tests that employee health nurses conduct. Those who test positive will be encouraged to take advantage of free smoking-cessation services that are available to existing employees.

Beginning Nov. 1, though, job candidates testing positive will have their offer of employment rescinded, be given information about smoking cessation and be offered the opportunity to reapply after 90 days.

“By instituting a nicotine-free hiring policy, we can further support our wellness mission and model the healthy behavior we promote,” said the hospital’s vice president of HR, Walt Schwoeble, in a statement.

The hospital, located in Summit County where it employs more than 3,600 workers, describes itself as one of that county’s largest employers.

In 2006, a Society for Human Resource Management SHRM Online Workplace Law Focus Area article reported that mandatory smoke-free workplaces likely were in Ohio’s future. The Akron hospital became among the latest in a string of U.S. employers that have instituted nicotine-free hiring policies, according to a statement from the hospital.

In May 2008, for example, Sarasota, Fla., county officials announced they would no longer hire smokers, citing a long-term strategy to produce a healthier workforce and better manage the county’s long-term health care costs.

Current Sarasota County employees will not be affected but are encouraged to use free programs aimed at helping them quit; new hires must undergo a drug test that screens for nicotine and sign a pledge stating they have not smoked in the last 12 months, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported at the time. That article noted that a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling upheld a Florida employer’s right not to hire employees who smoke.

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at kathy.gurchiek@shrm.org.

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