Are California Employers Required to Provide a Smoke-Free Workplace?
Posted in Civil rights in the workplace, News on January 30, 2014
Although second-hand tobacco smoke is considered by many to be a health hazard, federal law generally does not require employers to provide smoke-free workplaces. However, local city or county laws can choose to regulate smoking laws in the workplace.
A Smoke-Free Workplace
Only in certain situations must an employer eliminate smoking from its facilities. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) may require a smoke-free workplace in situations where industrial contaminants may mix with the smoke and create air quality so poor that it violates workplace safety standards.
Many employers are implementing policies to regulate smoking at work by confining smoking to certain areas or banning the practice altogether. Additionally, employees who have a disability protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that is related to tobacco smoke may be able to request reasonable accommodations from their employers to prevent exposure to the dangerous smoke.
California State Smoking Laws
There has been more activity at the state and local level to enact smoke-free workplaces. Some state statutes broadly regulate smoking in the private workplace. Others states prohibit smoking only in places of public accommodation or limit the prohibition to public employers. Other state laws only prohibit smoking in certain types of workplaces, such as hospitals, schools, and common carriers.
California law states that an employer may not permit smoking in an enclosed workplace. Smoking may only be permitted in non-work spaces that are safe and hazard-free. However, employers with five or fewer employees may permit smoking in any designated area if all the employees present agree, and no minors are allowed in the smoking area.
In addition, smokers are protected under California law and may not be discriminated against or wrongfully fired as an employer may not discharge or discriminate against an employee for engaging in lawful activity.
Smoking Laws in California — Frequently Asked Questions:
Where is smoking permitted and where is it not permitted in California workplaces?
California employers must take reasonable steps to prevent smoking in all enclosed workplace areas. Employers may also designate an entire site as nonsmoking.
Smoking is permitted in break rooms designated for smoking.
What requirements must be fulfilled for California workplaces to provide designated smoking areas?
- Must be in a non-work area.
- No employee may be required to enter said room as part of their job.
- The room must be ventilated, and air must be exhausted to the outside with a fan.
How far do you have to be from a building to smoke in California?
The law in California prohibits smoking within 20 feet of any public building.
Is it required to make accommodations to smokers in California workplaces?
There are no required accommodations for smokers in California workplaces.
Is it required to make accommodations to non-smokers in California workplaces?
If there is a designated smoker break room, there must be enough breakrooms for all non-smoking employees.
Can an employer discriminate against an employee for smoking lawfully?
Employers in California may not discriminate against any employee for engaging in lawful activity as long as it’s done away from the employer’s premises and during non-work hours.
Where to find official law information on smoking in the workplace in California?
All the relevant info can be found in California’s legislative information website under Labor Code Section 6404.5.