The jobs of three EVAC employees with more than 30 years of combined experience are up in smoke after they were found in violation of the county's nicotine policy, a county spokesman confirmed Saturday.
"I was terminated for something I do at home and is perfectly legal," said Mike Stone, who had worked as a paramedic for EVAC for 5 1/2 years.
In October, the private EVAC was taken over by Volusia County, meaning all its employees had to pass a blood test showing they were nicotine free. All EVAC employees are on workplace probation for six months, so they don't have the same rights as full-fledged employees.
Because the policy violations occurred during the probationary period, the terminated employees cannot appeal the decision with the county.
EVAC started hiring only nonsmokers in 2010, similar to the practice observed by the county for all uniformed personnel. The county policy not to employ smokers started with new, special risk hires for the county fire services in 1989. Those hired before the policy took effect were grandfathered in.
The three EVAC employees acknowledged Saturday they made mistakes.
"I think it's a little unfair," said 59-year-old Henry Roverano. "I know I broke the rules, but I think I should be given a second chance."
Roverano, who had worked with EVAC for 21 years, said he quit smoking Sept. 6, so he could pass the county's blood test.
But the former lead paramedic said he succumbed to temptation after he started going through family problems near the end of November -- smoking about 20 cigarettes in a two-week period. He said he quit again, though, feeding his addiction using nicotine lozenges.
Roverano said he was randomly tested Dec. 7 and the results came back positive for cotinine, an indicator of nicotine that can stay in the body for up to a week.
Roverano was fired Friday afternoon.
"I'm flabbergasted," he said. "They said I broke the rules and you're gone."
Stone, 30, said he was randomly tested about three weeks ago. He said he had also been going through a stressful time and snuck a few cigarettes while at home.
He said he was called in by his supervisors Tuesday after failing the test and was terminated.
Erin Blezinski, 39, who was an EVAC paramedic for 6 1/2 years, said she had quit smoking in July. The single mother said she was invited to a bachelorette party and smoked a cigar. Two days later, she was called in for a test.
"I wasn't even worried about it," she said.
Several days later, she was let go.
"I love my job and I love my patients," she said. "But I don't think I'll ever get it back now."
Oh, well, is my reaction. They should have followed the rules.