Wednesday, February 27, 2013

University of Pennsylvania Health System to Begin Discrimination Against Smokers on July 1

According to article at MedPage Today, the University of Pennsylvania Health System has announced that starting July 1, it will engage in employment discrimination against smokers.

According to the article: "The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) will stop hiring people who use nicotine at its Pennsylvania locations beginning July 1. The ban will not apply to the crop of residents who begin this summer, but will be in force for applicants for 2014 residency slots. Last year, there were 1,975 full-time faculty, 769 medical students, 775 PhD students, 1,135 residents and fellows, and 789 post-doctoral candidates working in the nearly 18,000-employee health system."

The primary reason given for the implementation of employment discrimination by the University of Pennsylvania Health System is that it will save health care costs.

The Rest of the Story

I believe that employment discrimination is wrong. Employees should be hired based on their bona fide qualifications for a job, not based on a group to which they happen to belong when that group membership does not relate to a specific job qualification. Once employment discrimination is justified on the grounds of saving money, then the same reasoning would justify discriminating against obese people, persons who consume alcohol, individuals who do not wear seat belts, persons who talk on their cell phones while driving, motorcyclists, and virtually any other group that an employer does not want to hire.

Interestingly, the UPenn Health System policy will not apply to its employees in New Jersey because that state has a law which bans employment discrimination against smokers. Given the way these policies are spreading, it would not surprise me if more states enact anti-discrimination policies to prevent this increasing form of employment discrimination.

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