DANVILLE, Pa. — Geisinger Health System may be the largest employer to discriminate against a declining minority — smokers — beginning Feb. 1.
Geisinger last week announced it will no longer hire job applicants who use tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars and chewing or smokeless tobacco.
“Geisinger is joining dozens of hospitals and medical organizations across the country that are encouraging healthier living, decreasing absenteeism and reducing healthcare costs by adopting strict policies that make smoking a reason to turn away job applicants,” stated Richard Merkle, chief human resources officer at Geisinger Health System. “Non-nicotine hiring policies are legal in 20 states, including Pennsylvania.”
This policy also affects any applicants receiving offer letters as of Feb. 1. During the hiring process, all applicants — including those seeking full- and part-time positions, flex, volunteers and students enrolled in Geisinger-based schools — will be tested for nicotine as part of the routine drug screening.
The test will include screening for cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, snuff, nicotine patches, nicotine gum and cigars. The test only detects active nicotine users, not those exposed to second-hand smoke.
“Applicants who test positive for nicotine use will be welcome to re-apply in six months provided they are nicotine-free at that time,” Merkle said. “A listing of smoking cessation resources will be provided to any applicant who tests positive for nicotine.”
Current employees are not affected by this new policy but are encouraged to take advantage of the tobacco cessation programs offered through Geisinger’s Employee Wellness program.
Geisinger currently has a no-tobacco-use policy that extends across all of its properties.