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.'"
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.
- 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.