The Oklahoma City fire department has fired a rookie caught smoking during his lunch break, authorities said Wednesday.
The action was to enforce a new no-smoking rule for recruits.
Fire department officials would not confirm the name of the recruit.
He is 22-year-old Greg Grusendorf, son of a 20-year veteran of the Oklahoma City fire department, The Oklahoman has learned. Grusendorf would not comment on the firing, referring the call to his attorney Steve Angel.
Angel said, "It's my understanding he was discharged pursuant to a rule that prohibited smoking on or off duty. I'm researching the constitutional implications. I think it's objectionable, to tell you the truth."
Grusendorf was a member of the first class of Oklahoma City rookies who signed an affidavit stating they would not smoke for one year, said department Maj. Jon Hansen.
"We don't admit smokers anymore," Hansen said. "It was discussed at the personnel department and with the city manager. Not smoking for a year is a condition of employment when the recruit comes to work."
Angel said, "It's pretty clear to me that the rule was well-publicized (to rookie firemen). The problem is: can you condition employment on an unconstitutional rule?"
After one year, "they can do whatever they want," Hansen said.
"We realize it's the right of a person to smoke if he wants to."
Grusendorf was "caught smoking on a lunch break and terminated for it" on Dec. 14, Hansen said.
Chris Harwell, Grusendorf's aunt, said her nephew had always wanted to be a fireman.
"It was a really bad deal. That was the way he wanted to support his family. He had quit his other job as a maintenance worker, and he had some of the highest grades of anybody over there," Mrs. Harwell said.
"He had gotten up on a 30- or 40-foot ladder, a real nerve-wracking thing to do, and he just took a couple of puffs of a cigarette at lunch. He came over here and said he might be fired, he didn't say he would be.
"This happened just before Christmas. He's been trying to get some means of support. He retained a lawyer, but he was waiting to see if the fire department was going to change their minds. He just wants his job back," Mrs. Harwell said.
"Firefighting being the type of job it is, it requires a physically fit person," Hansen said. "The new policy is mainly a gesture to keep firefighters more healthy. There are fire departments around the country that aren't allowing their veterans to smoke."
"It's really Orwellian," Angel said. "1984 is here in 1985. I question how far the government can go in regulating our lives."
On Monday, a city committee in Tulsa recommended that only non-smokers be hired as firefighters. Reasons for the recommendations included concern for the health and safety of firemen.
However, the committee also addressed the need to reduce the growing number of workers compensation claims arising from the fire department.
Most of those claims have been for lung and hearing disabilities.
Hansen said the Oklahoma City department was preparing a physical fitness plan for firefighters, and a counseling program for those who want to stop smoking. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 215897