Stinking Like an Ashtray Gets a Woman Fired

cigaretteNobody hates the smell of secondhand smoke more than I. Seriously. Perhaps it's rude, but whenever assaulted with the scent of a cig, I conspicuously waft my hand in front of my nose as if my entire face were just doused in gasoline and lit on fire. And don't even think about holding my baby if you smell like an ashtray. Well, you can think about it. But it's not gonna happen. I don't want her within a 50-mile radius of that shit. But, vehement stance against smoking and its disgusting aroma aside, I don't think someone should be fired for smelling like smoke. 


Stephanie Cannon has smoked almost a pack of Camel Menthols a day for the past 18 years. She got a job as a receptionist, ironically, at the Frauenshuh Cancer Center in Minnesota. Before starting, she learned that it was hospital protocol to not smoke anywhere on the premises, a rule by which she obliged. But six weeks into her stint, she was told by her boss, "We don't want you smelling like smoke when you come here." Okay. Pretty understandable. It is a hospital after all.

But then, she was fired.

Cannon says that she went above and beyond to avoid smelling like smoke. She stopped smoking on her lunch breaks, avoided doing it in her car, kept her work clothes sealed in a plastic bag and sprayed them with air freshener before going in. But still, nothing. According to Cannon, eventually, she was told to "avoid her husband in the morning" because he too is a smoker. And when that didn't work, she got the boot.

Now. According to Minnesota law, you can't be fired for doing something that's not illegal on your own time, like smoking -- which would make Cannon's termination against the law, right? Well, maybe. See, under this same law, employers actually have the right to restrict the use of legal products like tobacco if they feel it's creating an job-related hazard. So, yeah.

Being that this is a free country and all, I really am not for firing someone for doing something perfectly legal, no matter how gross it is, on their own free time. But, on the other hand, the second part of that law sort of does make Cannon's firing legal. So then I guess my question is: If it is legal to fire someone for smoking in Minnesota (if it's hazardous), and the hospital didn't want an employee who smelled like smoke, why hire Cannon in the first place? And moreover, if the job was so important to Cannon, why not just try quitting?

What do you think of this?


Image via Fried Dough/Flickr

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