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IBA: Indiana's No-Smoking Law and Potential Penalties to Employers for Failure to Adhere

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By Christopher S. Drewry,

Drewry Simmons Vornehm LLP

The IndyBar Labor & Employment Section posts articles written by Executive Committee members on its indybar.org section page throughout the year. Check out one article below and visit the section webpage at http://www.indybar.org/interest-groups/labor-employment-law/.

Back in March (and mixed in with other notable legislative changes like Right to Work and Restricting Access to Conviction Records), Governor Mitch Daniels signed into law a bill imposing statewide restrictions on smoking in public places. This law went into effect on July 1, 2012, and will affect all Indiana employers. While employers likely have already taken certain actions under this new law, the failure to follow the provisions could result in steep penalties, up to and including $10,000 in fines.

If you recall, smoking is now prohibited in most Indiana workplaces (exceptions being places like riverboats, horse racing facilities and other gaming facilities, retail tobacco stores, and bars that do not employ individuals under the age of 18 or allow individuals under the age of 21, other than employees, to enter, among other things). The law requires employers to prohibit smoking in areas within eight feet of a public entrance to a “place of employment” or a “public place.”

Additionally, since July 1st, employers have had additional obligations beyond merely prohibiting smoking. First, all employees and prospective employees must be informed of the smoking prohibition applying to the place of employment. This could be accomplished by including it in the employee handbook, or for prospective employees, by inserting a statement about the policy in the employment application. Next, employers are required to remove any and all ashtrays and smoking paraphernalia from all areas of public places and places of employment where such smoking is prohibited. Lastly, employers must post “conspicuous signs” at each public entrance which says “State Law Prohibits Smoking Within 8 Feet of this Entrance.” For those businesses that fall under the exception to this prohibition, they too must post conspicuous signs that read “WARNING: Smoking Is Allowed In This Establishment” or some other similar language.

While an individual who smokes where prohibited commits a Class B infraction (or up to a Class A infraction with at least three prior infractions), employers too may be penalized where they fail to abide by the three aforementioned proactive obligations. State agencies, including the State Department of Health, county health departments, and law enforcement agencies can issue fines ranging from $1,000 for a first violation up to $10,000 if there are three violations, and employers may also be enjoined for a failure to abide by the provisions of the law.

Finally, one other potential issue for employers in dealing with the prohibition of smoking is the fact that Indiana also has a statute prohibiting discrimination against smokers in employment and hiring. Further, the Americans with Disabilities Act may come into play for individuals who suffer diseases as a result of smoking.

Ultimately, it is important that employers be aware of the smoking ban and to implement the proper procedures in adherence of the rules. Additionally, it is important to note that the state law specifically authorizes local governments to enact more restrictive ordinances. Therefore, employers must follow the requirements of the more restrictive local ordinances over the state ban. Whether it involves the employer’s upfront obligations with the state law or other local ordinance, the smoking policies that have been put into place, or the enforcement of rules, counsel should take notice of the potential issues that can arise with the no-smoking law and ensure that their clients are in compliance.•

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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