Friday, July 23, 2010

University Medical Center in El Paso: Smokers Need Not Apply

The University Medical Center in El Paso, Texas will no longer hire smokers, according to an article in the El Paso Times. According to the article: "'Smokers need not apply,' Jim Valenti, UMC's chief executive officer, said in an interview. 'We care about our associates and their families, and we want to do everything possible to help them have a healthy life. We want to be setting an example.'"

According to hospital spokeswoman Margaret Althoff-Olivas, University Medical Center has a total of 2,310 employees and about 220 - or 9.5% - are smokers.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that the hospital spokeswoman, who announced the new policy, is herself a smoker and had the policy been in effect when she applied for her job, her application would have been thrown in the garbage.

Is it not ironic that it is a smoker who is announcing to the world that University Medical Center must set an example for the nation by refusing to hire smokers?

By the way, if University Medical Center is so committed to setting a good example and having a healthy workforce, then why is it exempting its 220 current employees who smoke from the policy? Why not just clean house and start with a blank slate of pure nonsmokers? If the only relevant considerations are health care costs and setting a good example, then why retain 220 smokers in your workforce?

Frankly, I don't understand how it sets a "good example" to refuse employment to smokers. In just what way is engaging in employment discrimination a good example? Why is hiring people based on the group to which they belong, when that group membership has no relevance to their qualifications for employment, a good example?

Appropriately, a Texas ACLU spokesperson said: "
We feel that should be a private matter. In general we oppose using what appear to be risky behaviors to make firing and hiring decisions. We feel it should be based on the employee's ability or inability to do the job."

Ironically, it was the smoking spokesperson for University Medical Center who responded: "We're not concerned about it."

How right she is. The University Medical Center is clearly not concerned about civil liberties.

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