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KSTP: Fridley Woman Fired from St. Louis Park Medical Center for Smelling Like Smoke

Stephanie Cannon lost her receptionist job at the Frauenshuh Cancer Center of Park Nicollet Health Services, according to KSTP-TV.

A pack-a-day smoker from Fridley said she was fired from a medical center in St. Louis Park for smelling like cigarette smoke, according to KSTP-TV.

It wasn't that Stephanie Cannon smoked at work—the complaint, she said, was that there was a smell of cigarettes she unwittingly brought into work at the Frauenshuh Cancer Center of Health Services.

"I would actually put my clothes in a separate bag, Febreze the whole thing," she told KSTP-TV reporter Mark Saxenmeyer. She started work as a receptionist in June. Last week, Cannon said, her employer told her, "'We have to let you go.'"

Read the longer KSTP-TV story at KSTP.com.

Rights or No Rights?
"She as a receptionist really had nothing to do with hand's-on health care. It's just one more nail in the coffin of freedom," said Mark Wernimont, who advocates for smokers' rights.

A civil-liberties expert said Cannon's rights as a smoker "end where other people's noses begin.

"You've got versus one person's desire to indulge in a legal activity versus the government's duty to protect the population as a whole from known bad things," said Chuck Samuelson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union-Minnesota.

Park Nicollet refused to comment, KSTP said.

What the Law Says
State statutes protect some, but not all, off-work activities, KSTP found:

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 home on your own time.

Or does it?

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

Related

  • Employees at medical facilities work under some special laws that can jeapordize their jobs if they cross certain lines. In 2011, related to a mass-overdose case in the news.
  • The Minnesota Department of Health has as a major factor —a topic of intense recent local interest.
Karen Shore Sandbakken July 26, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Why not? Why is it that EVERYONE else seems to have a way to dictate what I do... or my family... or my neighbor. Why NOT? Its just another way for us to become accustomed to be sheeple people to our society.
Teri West July 26, 2012 at 04:27 PM
She is the first person that patients encounter at a CANCER center. Was she warned before being fired?
Wendy Olson July 26, 2012 at 10:13 PM
I did clinicals in a couple of different hospitals while in a health-related educational program. Employees were prohibited from wearing perfumes or scented lotions because of the potential of triggering an allergic reaction or sensitivity in patients (or coworkers). I see the issue of this receptionist smelling like smoke as the same thing, and especially in a cancer center where patients may be undergoing therapies that would make them more susceptible to reacting to certain smells. It sounds like Park Nicollet tried to work with her (read the KSTP.com article) by suggesting a number of ways for her to avoid coming in smelling like smoke and when they didn't work or she was unwilling to try some of them, they felt that they had to let her go. As someone who has headaches triggered by strong perfumes and other scents, I'm with Park Nicollet on this one.
Julie M July 28, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Smelling like smoke when you are an employee in a health care setting is a terrible first impression. Not only that, I get mad every time I drive down Excelsior Blvd, and see all the employees in scrubs, with booties and hair nets on walking down the sidewalk smoking. It is perception. I used to smoke. Chances are, if smoke is permeating out of her clothing, she is smoking more than one pack a day. You can't get that out of your clothes, your hair, everything. Stop smoking in your home is the first thing to cut down on the smell of smoke on all clothing. People don't want to be told what to do. Fine, but there are consequences sometimes for actions or inactions.
Sharon July 28, 2012 at 05:04 AM
I am a cancer patient at Frauenshuh Center & I get very nauseous at the smell of smoke. You would think as receptionist she would want to not smoke seeing the patients that come in for treatment. People on chemo are often very sensitive to smells, it IS a cancer center not a regular doctors office!! Good for Health Partners!
Julie M July 28, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Sharon, some people don't care. And don't realize what they smell like when they smoke. When I did smoke, I was very conscientious about the smell on my clothing, in my hair, etc. And smoking inside, outside in the cold, etc. all increase the smell on you and your clothing. And Febreeze doesn't eliminate the odor, it just masks it for a while. Frauenshuh is part of the Park Nicollet system at Methodist. They are the ones who fired her. Not health partners.
Jay Chong August 06, 2012 at 05:42 PM
The cancer center isn’t regulating her smoking at home; the employee is bringing her smoking habit to work. http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2012/08/03/smoker-fired-smelling-cigarette/

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