Stephanie Cannon says she was fired from cancer center job for smelling like cigarettes

Cannon believes she's a victim of discrimination.
Cannon believes she's a victim of discrimination.

-- Hennepin County bans smoking everywhere, even its cars
-- Bad news for cig smoking Twins fans: You can no longer smoke at Target Field

In June, Fridley resident Stephanie Cannon got a job as a receptionist with Park Nicollet Health Services at the Frauenshuh Cancer Center in St. Louis Park. There was some irony in Stephanie's new gig, as she's been smoking cigarettes for 18 years.

Stephanie smokes a pack of Camel Menthols a day, so it stands to reason that she smells like cigs most of the time. But six weeks after she started her new job, her supervisor approached her and said she shouldn't smell like smoke when she came to work at the cancer center.

Stephanie told KSTP that she took drastic measures to kill the smoke smell, including dousing her work clothes with Febreze. She abided by the hospital's no-smoking-on-site policy and even stopped smoking in her car on breaks. But it wasn't enough to save her job: Though she claims there were no performance issues, last week, shortly after her boss admonished her, she was called into a meeting and told, 'we have to let you go.'

Stephanie's preferred brand.
Stephanie's preferred brand.

Cannon believes she's a victim of discrimination, and she's talking with a lawyer about her legal options. But Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, told KSTP he doesn't believe Park Nicollet acted unlawfully in firing Cannon for smelling like smoke.

"Private employers can do things that governmental agencies cannot, to their employees," Samuelson says. "The Constitution simply does not apply in the same way. If she worked for Hennepin County or Ramsey County Hospital she would be better protected than if she worked for a private hospital, which she did."

Minnesota law allows employers to restrict the use of legal products if they determine that use of those products presents on-the-job risks. Nonetheless, smokers' rights advocates like Mark Wernimont see Stephanie's case as just another example of employers and government agencies overstepping bounds in the effort to quash smoking.

"She as a receptionist really had nothing to do with the hands-on health care," Wenimont told KSTP. "It's just one more nail in the coffin of freedom."

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