It used to be that many businesses allowed workers to smoke indoors. However, those days are long gone, and now you will be hard-pressed to find any public building that allows people to smoke inside. While there are no federal laws regarding smoking tobacco in the workplace, many states have picked up the slack and have instituted their own laws on the subject. You should check the laws in whatever state you reside to make sure everyone working for you is protected.
The reason why many states have passed laws on this subject is to protect individuals who do not smoke. Numerous health problems are associated with smoking tobacco, but if someone chooses to smoke, then that is his or her right. However, the issue in workplaces is the hazard of secondhand smoke. A great deal of evidence exists that indicates being constantly exposed to secondhand smoke is just as hazardous to someone’s health as actually smoking. There are certain exceptions to allowing employees to smoke at work. If you operate a business that generally hosts private functions, then you may be able to allow people to smoke indoors. You may also be able to skirt around the law if you own a business where only smokers work. You may be able to have a designated smoking breakroom where people can go to light up a cigarette. This is only acceptable if you are able to accommodate people who do not use tobacco and give them breakrooms or areas as well.
Someone may choose to use tobacco, and that is their right. You are not allowed to discriminate against current workers or potential employees just because you discover that they like smoking. Some states have laws that forbid employers from refusing to hire someone purely on the grounds that he or she smokes tobacco. You are also not allowed to terminate the employment of someone who currently works for you if you discover that he or she smokes. Additionally, you cannot prohibit someone from smoking on his or her own time. If you have an employee who smokes, you cannot stop him or her from doing it on a break as long as the worker in question is a reasonable distance away from the building’s entrance. It is entirely impractical to try to regulate employees’ behavior when they are off the clock, so it is best to focus on controlling actions while people are at work.
Abiding by the Americans With Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act was brought into law to protect individuals who have certain conditions that prohibit them from doing major life activities due to certain qualities existing within a place of work. Some people may have an impairment that prevents them from breathing comfortably if the presence of tobacco smoke exists at work. People with this impairment will likely not smoke themselves, but having people around the office who smell like tobacco may inhibit an individual’s breathing. An employee may come to you saying that he or she is unable to breathe properly with so much secondhand smoke in the air, and if it can be successfully proven that condition exists, then you may need to ban smoking in the workplace. You are required under the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities. However, you may not necessarily be required to provide accommodation if you can show that doing so would place undue hardship on yourself. Ultimately, these laws exist in order to give people a productive, comfortable work environment. Do your best to enforce them at your place of work so that smokers and non-smokers alike are happy and are able to work effectively without having potentially irritating substances in the air.
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