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Because of a medical condition, I am in fear of being terminated. What can I do?

Wednesday January 23, 2013
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Dear Donna,

The chemical dependency unit where I work has been put under investigation by the local smoking enforcement board. The administration is now asking that staff take the patients around the corner from the facility when they want to smoke. I have a note from a physician for a medical condition that requires me to be 25 feet from anyone who is smoking. I have a feeling I am about to be told there is no position for me any longer, since I am unable to be around smoke. I have consulted an attorney in case I am terminated. There was no written policy when I was hired and nothing about smoking or smoking exposure was listed in the job description. The hospital claims to be non-smoking. What should I do?

Afraid of Losing His Job

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Afraid of Losing His Job,

If you have a doctor's note restricting your exposure to smoke because of a medical condition, your employer should honor that. If they were to eliminate your job or fire you after you bring up the medical issue in light of this new policy, you certainly should be able to make a legal case against them for discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act — so I doubt they would do that. Consult your attorney now to be sure your rights are protected and to get advice on how to proceed should any action be taken against you.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.