Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Delaware has announced that as of January 1st they will no longer hire anyone, I repeat, anyone who uses any form of tobacco products.
Beebe will institute a screening policy in their hiring process to determine if an applicant is a tobacco user. The policy, according to a Beebe spokesperson is to see that Sussex County is the healthiest county in the nation, starting with the medical center’s own staff. Current staff will, for now, be exempt from the zero tolerance policy, but would anyone be surprised to see in the future an attempt to force people to stop smoking?
Now of course this has drawn the usual cries of outrage and accusations of discrimination from smokers and non-smokers alike. Many are calling on Delaware legislators to pass laws protecting the rights of the potential employees to use what is still a legal product on their own time in their own homes.
I must admit when I first heard this story, I too felt that the potential employees were being discriminated against and thought that they should be protected.
However when we look at this from another point of view, I see it differently.
Let us consider the rights of the employer, does an employer still have the right to make decisions that will benefit their own interest? I say they do. Now some will say, but tobacco is a legal product that does not affect the way a person performs their duties when on the job.
Okay, but we know that smokers are more likely to be sick more often, we know they take more breaks if allowed to, we know that smoking can lead to more serious health issues in the future like cancer. All of these have a cost to the employer.
Now consider the idea that people should be allowed to do as they see fit on their own time, as long as what they are doing is legal. Well as we have seen in recent referendums in several states, marijuana has been made legal. Should an employer still be able to have a zero tolerance policy against drugs in the work place, even if that drug is legal? Of course they should, the same as alcohol is prohibited from the work place.
Should marijuana be made legal here in Delaware, shouldn’t Beebe and other employers be allowed to set their own policies on who they hire base on long used drug screening policies? I think they should, this is not an infringement upon the rights of the potential employee. The employee is free to look elsewhere for a job, though this type of policy may be implemented by more and more employers based on insurance rates and soon Obama care.
All that being said, I do think that Beeb has, without thinking this through, set a policy in place, that tells the patients of the medical center that they care more about the politically correct aspect of banning smokers from their work force, than they care about the health of the patients.
Let us think about what this zero tolerance policy will lead to. Imagine if you will that there is a position open at Beebe, now let us imagine that ten people apply for that position, out of the ten only the least qualified person is a non-tobacco user, this would mean that based solely on the fact that the person does not use tobacco, they get the job, even though there were nine people more qualified.
This is a policy that directly affects the health and safety of the patients of Beebe Medical Center. I am not sure that this was even taken into consideration when the idea of banning tobacco users from employment came up, but it deserves to be.
While I feel that the employer has a right to set hiring policies, and I feel that the employee is free to, not work there, if their outside interest and habits are more important to them than the job is, I do feel in this case that Beebe is putting their patients at risk. I feel that Beebe should suspend implementing this policy until they can think it through and find a way to insure that they hire only the most qualified employees and not jus the most politically correct employees.