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What to Know If You Have Employees Who Smoke

Christine Batten, PHR
by Christine Batten, PHR on April 2, 2014

smoking policies in the workplaceSmoking Policies in the Workplace

Many employers are choosing to implement smoking policies in the workplace. Many of these policies ban smoking altogether. The goal is to improve employee health and productivity and minimize their company’s exposure to claims by non-smokers resulting from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Smoking policies in the workplace can also lower costs incurred as a result in damaged equipment and furniture from smoking. Reducing fire danger and increasing productivity may also be employee considerations. However, there are specific areas of concern employers should be aware of when considering implementation of a smoking policy; particularly smoking-related legislation in their state. Some states require employers to have policies protecting non-smoking employees from the hazards of environmental tobacco smoke. In other states, the non-workplace use of lawful tobacco products is protected.

Smoking Restricted Areas

With few exceptions, most states restrict smoking in public places, such as government buildings, retail stores, hospitals, schools, food preparation areas and other establishments. States that do not have such restrictions include: Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Smoking Prohibited in the Workplace

Some states require employers to adopt policies barring or significantly restricting smoking in the workplace. Many of these states also require posting of notices related to smoking restrictions and designated smoking areas.

The states affected by such requirements include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

Smoker’s Rights

While many states have laws requiring employers to adopt a smoking policy, others prohibit employers from requiring employees to abstain from the use of tobacco products outside the course of employment or discriminating against job applicants or employees based on their off-duty use of tobacco.

These states are: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Whether smoking is restricted in the workplace by employer choice or state law, certain guidelines can be enacted which help create a harmonious setting for both smokers and nonsmokers:

  • Allowing employees to smoke only during work breaks or lunch
  • Scheduling break times so that smokers and non-smokers have the opportunity for separation
  • Restricting smoking to specific areas – such as a ventilated employee lounge or outside area
  • Allowing job reassignment or other reasonable accommodations for smoke-sensitive employees
  • Employers should be cautious to respect the rights of both smokers and non-smokers with their policies and practices

If you have specific questions on smoking policies in the workplace or are interested in ways that FrankCrum can help you with HR and employee issues you’re currently facing, please contact us. We’re here for you!

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Christine Batten, PHR
Christine Batten, PHR

Christine has over 20 years of HR related experience with a background in labor and employment law.