There are no federal laws that regulate smoking in the workplace, however there are many states that have laws regulating smoking. In addition, many cities and counties have ordinances that altogether ban smoking in the workplace. The reason there are so many laws concerning smoking in the workplace is that many federal and independent studies have illustrated the detrimental effects not only of smoking, but of second-hand smoke as well.
The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that second-hand smoke is the cause of approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 37,000 heart disease deaths a year. In addition, if smoking is not regulated in the workplace it could lead to higher costs of healthcare insurance, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation insurance for employees who smoke. About half of the states have laws that make it illegal for an employer to not hire an employee or fire an employee just because the employee smokes during nonworking hours.
What Kinds of Laws Do States Have Concerning Regulation of Smoking in the Workplace?
Some states such as California, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont have smoking laws that specifically target the workplace. This means nonsmoking employees are protected under these laws no matter where they work. Many other states have smoking laws that restrict smoking in public places as well as some private places. Usually this means there is no smoking allowed in the workplace except in designated areas. There are also some common exceptions to these types of no-smoking laws:
- Places where private social functions are held
- Offices occupied exclusively by smokers
- Prison inmates and people staying at other kinds of correctional or care institutions. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean smoking is allowed, it simply means that the rules of the institution will govern if and where people can smoke rather than state laws
- Employees who can prove that it would not be reasonably possible for them to comply with the legal restrictions
Seeking Legal Help
If you have already complained to your employer to no avail, you may want to contact an experienced employment lawyer. Your attorney will advise you of your rights and let you know if you may be entitled to money damages from a lawsuit against your employer.