NEW INFORMATION: Area hospitals not planning to enact nicotine-free hiring policies

By: WEAU 13 News Staff Email
By: WEAU 13 News Staff Email

EAU CLAIRE (WEAU) - It's a story that’s drawing a lot of attention on our Facebook page and website. A hospital in Des Moines, IA is about to set a new hiring precedent by starting a tobacco-free hiring policy.

Mercy Medical Center will no longer hire smokers, and will test applicants for nicotine as part of its pre-employment drug testing. The hospital says it wants its employees to emulate the same healthy behaviors it encourages from its patients.

The American Cancer Society says it doesn't have a stance on the policy, but it says it would have a positive effect on the hospital's patients.

“Carcinogens are carried on your hands, so, after you’re smoking, even though in health care facilities, it’s important to wash your hands,” said Michelle Shufelt with ACS. “It also gets on your clothing so those things are spread.”

We asked attorney John Behling about the legalities of this policy. He said if a business in Wisconsin wanted to implement a similar policy, he thinks it would be a violation of Wisconsin's Fair Employment Act. He added that Wisconsin has more employee-friendly laws then some neighboring states.

Mayo Clinic Health System-Eau Claire and Sacred Heart Hospital both say they don't have a tobacco-free hiring policy, or plans in place to start one.


DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A Des Moines hospital is expanding its smoke-free workplace to its new employees with a tobacco-free hiring policy.

Mercy Medical Center will no longer hire smokers and will test applicants for nicotine as part of its pre-employment drug testing.

Human Resources Director Kevin Elsberry says the hospital wants its employees to emulate the same healthy behaviors it encourages from its patients. The policy, which goes into effect July 1, doesn't affect current employees.

Elsberry says the policy isn't discriminatory. He says smokers aren't a "protected class" in Iowa so the hospital has the option of not hiring people who smoke or use other tobacco products.

Mercy banned smoking from its campus about five years ago.


Mercy to enact nicotine-free hiring policy effective July 1, 2011

May 31, 2011

As a health care organization with a mission-driven commitment to create healthier communities, Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines will implement a nicotine-free hiring policy for all job applicants at its hospitals, clinics, outpatient centers and all other facilities effective July 1, 2011.

“Mercy’s primary goal is to improve the health and well-being of the patients and families it serves. By living our mission of creating healthier communities, we support healthier lifestyles,” said Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Robyn Wilkinson.

Under the new policy, all physicians, nurses and other individuals who apply for a position with Mercy on or after July 1 will be tested for nicotine during the regular pre-employment screening process. Those who test positive for nicotine will be eliminated from hiring consideration with the option to reapply after six months.

The policy does not apply to current Mercy employees who smoke or use tobacco products unless they leave the organization and reapply for future employment with Mercy on or after July 1. However, those employees are strongly encouraged to use the smoking cessation options afforded them under Mercy's health and wellness benefits.

“We recognize smoking or using tobacco products is not illegal,” said Wilkinson. “However, our employees have an obligation to set a good example for the communities we serve. By implementing a nicotine-free hiring policy, Mercy will be expecting its employees to model the same healthy behaviors it encourages of its patients and their family members.”

While Mercy is the first member of the Iowa Hospital Association to make nicotine-free a condition for employment, the organization has promoted and supported a tobacco-free health care environment since 2006, when it partnered with other local hospitals in an effort to prohibit smoking and the use of tobacco products on its campuses.

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  • by anonymous on Jun 4, 2011 at 03:12 PM
    As someone who's been hospitalized with severe respiratory problems, I have told both a nurse and a respiratory therapist assigned to me at Sacred Heart to take a hike because they both reeked of smoke. Just as one wouldn't hire a bug exterminator whose clothes are infested with bed bugs, someone seeking quality healthcare wouldn't hire a health care worker that reeks of cigarette smoke.
  • by David Location: Eau Claire on Jun 3, 2011 at 07:21 AM
    There already is a major employer in the US that will not hire obese people, even if they can perform the duties of the job. Ever hear of the military?
  • by You wanted it on Jun 2, 2011 at 09:15 PM
    Ok guys...this is what you get in a right to work state. You can be fired if the boss doesn't like the color of your shoes when you come to work in the morning. Time to wake up...but I doubt most of you will.
  • by Anonymous Location: EC on Jun 2, 2011 at 08:54 PM
    How old are you? Most companies charge 25%mor on premi So are you tleeling me they are being discriminated against? Your an idiot
  • by anonymous2 on Jun 2, 2011 at 07:45 PM
    I didn't know there was anything constitutional about this.this is no longer about smoking but about rights the government allows the sells of tabacco and makes money but wont back the rights of use.where is a lawyers opinion in all this?
  • by David Location: Bloomer on Jun 2, 2011 at 06:32 PM
    What constitutes a "positive" test? Is the applicant informed of the results? Could a test be "positive" from passive smoke?
  • by p u Location: ec on Jun 2, 2011 at 06:18 PM
    This comment has been deleted.
    • reply
      by Toby on Jun 2, 2011 at 07:37 PM in reply to p u
      Maybe your the one that reeks!
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 3, 2011 at 11:40 AM in reply to p u
      Do you mind the smoke at the casino when you are spending your government check?
  • by Awesome Location: EC on Jun 2, 2011 at 04:59 PM
    I can't wait to sign up for disability because I am oveweight even though it doesn't preent me from doing my job in any way shape or form. Then I can get food stamps,energy assistance, housing assistance, MA, SSI, and hang out all day. Bring it on!
    • reply
      by c on Jun 3, 2011 at 05:26 AM in reply to Awesome
      If you are fat, you most likely will not get a bartenders job, or a flight attendant, or a cruise ship position. As a matter of fact a person being obese is a sign of lack of control or confidence, which does affect the person at job interviews. Many times thin people do get hired over obeses peple. They are discriminated against every day, it just doesn't have to be mentioned because the physical aspect of obesity is apparent at 1st sight, no tests are needed. Now should we go on to the ear piercings and tattoos? Many employers won't hire these people unless the tattoo or piercing can be hidden or covered. So are they being discriminated against as well? Heck yeah. My Dr. used to smoke. How tacky is that? And, did he think his patients couldn't smell it? Probably. Hospitals are just not a place where you want to pull up and see a bunch of nurses huddled together smoking cigarettes. The hospital, as a business, has an image that it would like to portray, and smokers do not fit into that image. Just like tattoo's and face piercings. Do these hospitals have a policy against those?
  • by Anonymous on Jun 2, 2011 at 04:53 PM
    We keep hearing that smoking is addictive and a disease. How long will it take before an American Disabilities Act lawsuit begins?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 3, 2011 at 09:15 AM in reply to
      Though smoking is certainly disabling, the fact that doing it is a choice, it is NOT a disability
  • by anonymous2 on Jun 2, 2011 at 04:39 PM
    this so called health concerned hospital has a mcdonolds and a starbucks inside and yet has the nerve to preach whats healthy. whats next alchohol or perhaps thaT SOMEONE WILL BE TO OVERWEIGHT!it all starts with one thing but it willprogress to others that are all just a choice or what i thought we called FREEDOM
    • reply
      by Fruit da Loop on Jun 5, 2011 at 12:13 PM in reply to anonymous2
      Calm down and learn to spell.
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