Two Philadelphia hospitals will implement their ban on hiring smokers starting Monday. The ban has sparked debate over whether companies have the right to regulate their employees’ behavior away from the workplace.
Both hospitals implementing the smoker ban are prestigious hospitals in the University of Pennsylvania Health System, though dozens of hospitals across the country have already made the move.
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania will have similar programs, though Penn will rely on an applicant’s word about tobacco use. Meanwhile, Children’s will test applicants to determine whether or not they use tobacco.
The decision to stop hiring smokers has caused criticism among civil liberties activists, hospital employees, and doctors, who worry that smokers will lie about their habit.
One critic, Lewis Maltby, is a former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who currently runs the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. He stated of the hospitals’ ban on hiring smokers:
“It’s not all slopes that are slippery, but this one really is. What you do in your own home on your own time is none of your boss’s business unless it affects your work.”
Maltby added that drinking alcohol, eating junk food, and not exercising are also bad. However, those are not banned like smoking. Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor with the Boston University School of Public Health, also expressed his wariness about the new policy, saying:
It is blatant employment discrimination. Employment decisions should be made based on a person’s qualifications for a position. Once you step over that line and you start making decisions based on the group to which a person belongs that has no bearing on their actual qualifications, I think that’s really dangerous.”
But despite the criticism of many, the Philly area hospitals are set to enact their ban on hiring smokers starting on Monday.
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