California has led the country in anti-smoking legislation for decades. Recently, the state changed its smoking laws and significantly increased the number of businesses and employers which are required to provide a smoke-free working environment. The new law also raises the smoking age from 18 to 21.
The new law will cover almost all employers, even employers who have no other employees. As long as a business allows clients or other non-employees access to the workplace, that business will have to be smoke-free.
Initially, the state’s non-smoking laws did not cover all businesses. The law did not apply to employers with fewer than five employees, and employers could still allow smoking in the employee breakroom. Additionally, the law did not cover places like hotel lobbies, banquet halls, bars, taverns, or warehouses.
The changes to the law will protect workers from second-hand smoke in all of these workplaces. Unless a business is an owner-operated sole proprietorship with no employees and no access for non-employees, then smoking will be prohibited.
There are very few exemptions to the new law. Some tobacco shops which allow private smoking lounges will continue to operate, and truck drivers who own their own vehicle could continue to smoke in the cab as long as there are no other passengers.
Additionally, e-cigarettes and vaporizers are treated almost exactly like traditional cigarettes. The use of these devices is defined as “smoking” under the laws, and employees will not be allowed to vape at work. If an area would not allow traditional smoking, then employees could not use vaporizers in these locations.
Employers are not required to make special accommodations for smokers. For instance, there is no rule that allows employees who smoke to take additional breaks. Employers who allow smoking in violation of the state law are eligible for fines ranging from $100 up to $70,000 for willful violation of the statutes.
An employer cannot fire an employee for smoking while away from work. In California, state law prohibits employers for punishing employees for legal activities while not on the job. Since smoking is still legal, an employer could not fire an employee for lighting up outside of work. Additionally, California law prohibits employers from refusing to hire smokers, unless smoking would violate a specific job requirement.
If an employer refuses to update the workplace’s smoking policy, the employer could be fined by the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, also known as Cal/OSHA.
Sacramento, CA 95821