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Hospital Begins ‘No Smoking’ Policy Today For New Workers

February 1, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ The new ″help wanted″ ads at Westlake Community Hospital will all be looking for the same kind of worker: a non-smoker.

The suburban hospital starts a new policy today in which it will refuse to hire employees who smoke cigarettes, pipes or cigars.

That rule applies to the hospital, of course, but also to the home, bowling alley, behind the barn - or anyplace else.

New employees will be required to sign a statement saying they are non- smokers, off and on the job. If they are caught smoking, they can be fired, said hospital president Leonard Muller.

″We as a health care institution stand for the prevention of illness,″ Muller said Thursday. ″We felt we should be a leader in cutting down smoking. One way to do it is not hire individuals who are smokers.″

The policy will apply only to new workers. About 28 percent of the 1,200 staffers at the Melrose Park hospital who smoke will not be asked to stop, said Kathryne Oates, a Westlake spokeswoman.

The two sets of standards, Muller acknowledged, are a bit discriminatory. But, he said: ″We think this is legal discrimination. You have to get started somewhere. We felt it would be ... too unreasonable″ to require current staffers who smoke to kick the habit.

Muller also said it may be difficult to enforce the policy because there is no way to watch workers after hours. ″We will take people at their word,″ he said.

″If you say you’re a non-smoker, we will accept that, and you’ll sign a statement to that effect,″ Muller added. ″If you do begin, it’s cause for dismissal.″

The policy has drawn mixed reactions.

The American Cancer Society in Chicago applauded the program.

But Jay Miller, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois, said the policy was ″quite foolish and poorly thought out.″

″All they’re really doing is inviting new employees to lie,″ said Miller, who added that he didn’t know how the courts would rule if the policy is challenged.

The ″no smoking″ policy for new workers will be included in job advertisements, Ms. Oates said. ″We’re going to be very up-front about it,″ she said.

Ms. Oates also said the hospital would pay for any worker who wants to enroll in a program to help them stop smoking.

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