Receptionist: I was fired for smelling smoky

Jeff Stacklin
The Lookout

A Minnesota woman claims discrimination after her employer fired her for smelling like cigarette smoke.

Stephanie Cannon, a pack-a-day smoker, says she had adhered to the strict no-smoking policy of the Park Nicollet Health Services, where she had worked since June as a medical receptionist. That meant no smoking anywhere on the facility's premises.

But after six weeks on the job, her boss told Cannon that she could not come to work smelling like smoke, according to KSTP-TV of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Cannon told the TV station that she tried all sorts of ways to get rid of the smell, including buying new clothes and sealing clothes in plastic bags at home, and spraying them with air freshener before work. She was encouraged to avoid her husband, who also is a smoker, and to quit smoking herself. The time, she told the TV station, wasn't right for quitting.

Last week, though, her employer let her, she said, insisting, "There were never any performance issues at all."

A message left by Yahoo! News today for a Park Nicollet spokesman seeking comments about Cannon employment and the health facility's smoking policy was not returned. The hospital's online careers page does not mention a smoking policy.

A representative of the American Civil Liberties Union told KSTP that private employers, such as Park Nicollet, can restrict employees behavior outside of work.

"Basically your rights as a a smoker end where other people's noses begin," Chuck Samuelson, of the ACLU, told the station. "In fact you can make the argument that your rights as a smoker end when other people breathe in the air that comes off of you."

Meantime, Cannon told the TV station she is consulting with an attorney.