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Article updated: 11/29/2012 7:34 AM

Lawmakers: Cancer center can't discriminate against smokers in hiring

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SPRINGFIELD -- Lawmakers Wednesday declined to override Gov. Pat Quinn's veto of a plan that would allow Cancer Treatment Centers of America to discriminate against hiring smokers.

The plan by state Sen. Dan Duffy, a Lake Barrington Republican, was approved by lawmakers earlier in the year. Duffy argued that a company dedicated solely to treating cancer shouldn't have to hire smokers and that the smell of cigarette smoke on an employee could upset patients.

"This is part of Cancer Treatment Centers of America's mission," Duffy said.

But the Senate disagreed. Even though senators approved the plan 50-1 months ago, many changed their minds and voted 24-31 when asked to override Quinn's veto.

State Sen. Susan Garrett, a Lake Forest Democrat, said she was among those who changed their minds, arguing now that the plan would take away employees' rights.

"This is an invasion of privacy of the highest degree," she said.

Duffy countered that smoking is already highly restricted in Illinois. Smoking is banned indoors in Illinois, and nonprofit groups like the Illinois Lung Association are already allowed to keep smokers off their staffs.

"They can't smoke at the restaurant next door but they can smoke at the cancer facility," Duffy said.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America's Midwestern Regional Medical Center is in Zion.

After the Senate's rejection Wednesday, Duffy will have to wait until next year if he wants to try to move the legislation again.

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