As part of its commitment to the health and well-being of our workforce and community, Covenant Health will no longer hire or re-hire individuals who use nicotine products. Individuals who are offered a position with Covenant Health are screened for nicotine use as part of the post-offer pre-screening. Those whose screening results are verified positive for nicotine use will have their job offers withdrawn. Individuals whose job offers are withdrawn for nicotine use may reapply for employment after 90 days.
Tobacco Cessation & Nicotine Testing
Q: What is the effective date of this new policy?
A: Covenant Health will begin screening Texas applicants for nicotine effective January 1, 2013.
Q: Is screening for nicotine use legal?
A: Yes. Users of nicotine are not in a legally protected class. Non-nicotine hiring policies are legal in 21 states including Texas. In 1987 a Federal Appeals Court ruled that smokers are not a "protected class" entitled to special legal prosecutions and that courts need no further rational than the Surgeon General's warning on cigarette cartons: Cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health.
Q: Will the Non-Nicotine Hiring policy impact current Covenant Health employees?
A: No. Current Covenant Health employees will be grandfathered.
Q: Will employment applicants know upfront that we will be testing for nicotine?
A: Yes, it will be stated clearly on the home page of the application.
Q: What will happen to current employees who continue to use tobacco/nicotine?
A: At this time, the new policy does not apply to current employees of Covenant Health. Covenant Health and other organizations are making a decision to focus on a healthier workforce that models a healthier life style for our patients. A healthier workforce means better care for our patients as well as setting an example for our communities. We believe this will motivate our patients towards a healthier lifestyle assisting them to make positive lasting changes. We want to encourage healthy habits, so we will support current employees who want to quit by providing free tobacco cessation programs. A healthy lifestyle is the key to continued well-being, and we know changing your lifestyle for the better takes time and real effort. But, with the help of this program, you can do it. And it's worth the effort. Quitting tobacco/nicotine can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke and improve your self-esteem. You can review more information regarding the Tobacco Cessation Program at www.CovenantDiscoverWellness.com.
Q: Nicotine-free – does this apply to our vendors and partners?
A: Not currently. We are exploring ways to help them become nicotine-free in the future.
Q: Why nicotine users and not other behaviors/habits?
A: Consider that cigarette smoke contains hundreds of chemicals and compounds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer. These chemicals travel throughout the body wreaking havoc in the form of inflammation, cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and a weakened immune system. To ignore this would be to undermine our commitment to health and wellness, which includes providing a healthy environment for our employees, visitors and patients. This is part of a progression on our journey of winning the war against preventable disease.
Q: Why did Covenant make this decision?
A: Not hiring nicotine users is part of a national trend. Many other health care organizations are making the decision not to hire nicotine users as part of a broader well-being initiative. The use of nicotine products is one of the leading cause of preventable death in this country. As an organization that provides health care, we want to encourage Covenant employees to take better care of their health and set good examples for our patients. It is time to be role models for health and wellness. It is time for each of us to take care of ourselves so we can lead by example and take care of others.
Q: How will this new policy work?
A: We will place information for prospective candidates on our career website informing them of our nicotine-free hiring policy. Applicants, applying for employment in Texas, who profess to use nicotine, will not have their applications processed. Such applicants are encouraged to complete a tobacco cessation program. We will also test for nicotine as a normal part of our post offer prescreening process. For many years, Covenant Health has conducted post job offer employment drug testing for all new hires. Starting January 1, 2013, nicotine will be added to substances looked for in this urine test. This policy will also apply to volunteers and employed physicians.
Q: What does the new nicotine-free hiring policy mean for people seeking employment with Covenant Health?
A: Beginning January 1, 2013, Covenant will no longer hire individuals who use nicotine products. Applicants in Texas who profess to use nicotine will not have their applications processed. Anyone who is offered and accepts a position with Covenant will be tested for nicotine during our regular post offer pre-employment testing. Applicants who test positive for nicotine will be eliminated from consideration and pending job offers will be rescinded. We encourage candidates who do not pass the nicotine testing to consider taking steps to stop the use of nicotine and reapply for consideration after a period of 90 days.
Q: What if an applicant only uses nicotine socially?
A: This policy applies to any applicant regardless of how much they use nicotine products.
Q: What if an applicant uses nicotine products now, but wants to quit? Will we hire them?
A: Applicants must be nicotine-free.
Q: If an applicant fails the screening for nicotine, can he/she reapply for employment at Covenant? If so, when?
A: Yes. Applicants can re-apply 90 days after they have failed a nicotine screen.
Q: Does this apply to new volunteers?
A: Yes, volunteers are part of our team that serves our patients.
Q: Does second hand smoke produce a positive result?
A: When testing for nicotine, the lab has built in levels that will take into account the possibility of second hand smoke. Therefore, a positive result will mean the individual who tested positive is a nicotine user.
Q: What is a nicotine product?
A: A nicotine product is any type of product that contains or is made or derived from nicotine and intended for human consumption. Products that are chewed, smoked, absorbed, dissolved, inhaled, snorted, sniffed, or ingested by any other means are included, as are components, parts, or accessories of nicotine products.
Q: Who is classified as a nicotine user?
A: A nicotine user is any individual who uses nicotine products including, but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco. This policy also applies to e-cigarettes, which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as a nicotine product. Nicotine patches, gum and lozenges will test positive.
Q: Is there concern that Covenant will lose out on some talented applicants with this new policy?
A: We understand that this policy has a potential impact on an individual's choice of employment. So yes, we might lose out on some good people. But not hiring people who use nicotine products is the trend not only in health care, but also with other employers who are looking for ways to build healthier workforces. We have an obligation to set a good example for the communities we serve. By implementing a nicotine hiring policy, we will be expecting the same healthy behaviors we encourage of our patients and their family members.
Q: If a current employee terminates employment with Covenant and then re-applies, will they be subject to the new screening?
A: Yes, anyone seeking employment with Covenant Health in Texas on or after January 1, 2013 will be tested for nicotine.
Q: So why doesn't this apply to current employees who use nicotine?
A: Changing your lifestyle for the better takes time and real effort. We have to start somewhere to foster a healthier workforce as well as to demonstrate to our patients and the community our strong commitment to health and wellness, so we're starting with this. As a healthcare system committed to improving the health of those we serve, we are asking our employees to model the same behaviors we promote to our patients.
Q: Since Covenant will no longer hire individuals in Texas who use nicotine products as of January 1, 2013, what does this mean to me as a current employee who uses nicotine products?
A: At this time, the new policy does not apply to current employees of Covenant Health. We do want to encourage healthy habits, and employees should be role models for health and wellness. We believe this will motivate our patients towards a healthier lifestyle assisting them to make positive lasting changes. A healthier workforce means better care for our patients as well as setting an example for our communities. We will support current employees who want to quit with Covenant Health provided tobacco cessation programs. You will be asked whether you use tobacco products during Open Enrollment which include, but are not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco. If you use nicotine products, and if you are covered by the Covenant medical plan, you will pay a $25-per-pay-period surcharge each month beginning in January 2013, unless you successfully complete a CHS provided tobacco cessation.
Changing your lifestyle for the better takes time and real effort. But, with the help of this program, you can do it. And it's worth it. Quitting tobacco/nicotine can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke and improve your self-esteem. You can review more information regarding the Tobacco Cessation Program at www.CovenantDiscoverWellness.com.