Governor Sonny Perdue recently signed into law the Georgia Smokefree Air Act of 2005. While the bill generally prohibits indoor smoking in most places of public accommodation, many provisions of the bill apply to employers outside of the hospitality industry. The Act sets forth the general rule that smoking is prohibited in enclosed areas within “places of employment.” Some of the key provisions on the new law are as follows:
All employers must take the following affirmative steps by July 1, 2005:
- Communicate to all current employees the scope of the prohibition on smoking in the workplace.
- Inform each prospective employee of the smoking prohibition when they apply for employment.
- Clearly and conspicuously post “no smoking” signs or the international “no smoking” symbol (consisting of a pictorial representation of a burning cigarette enclosed in a red circle with a red bar across it) in each place of employment where smoking is prohibited.
Aside from work areas, locations within “places of employment” where smoking is prohibited include any enclosed area under the control of a public or private employer that employees utilize during the course of employment (including employee lounges, restrooms, conference rooms, meeting rooms, classrooms, employee cafeterias and hallways).
Outdoor areas that fall within the definition of “places of employment” are excluded from the smoking prohibition, although employers may through their own work rules provide for a broader ban on smoking.
The smoking prohibition does not extend to certain places where work may be performed, such as a vehicle used in the course of employment or a private residence, unless the residence is being used as a licensed childcare, adult day-care or health care facility.
An employer may designate a smoking area within an enclosed facility if:
- The smoking area is located in a non-work area where no employee is required to enter as part of his or her work responsibilities, with the exception of custodial or maintenance staff.
- An air handling system for the smoking area exists which is independent from the main air handling system serving other areas of the building and through which all air within the smoking area is exhausted directly to the outside.
- The smoking area is designated for use by employees only.
Special exceptions and rules apply to businesses that are providing services to the public, including hotels, bars and restaurants, convention facilities, long-term care facilities and international airports.
Despite the seemingly broad application of these smoking restrictions, one key exception appears to give employers that wish to continue to allow indoor smoking a strategy by which to do so. The statute creates a special exception for “private places of employment that are open to the general public by appointment only.” In such locations, smoking will be allowed if the employer so designates, within certain areas of the facility, such as private offices, conference rooms and common work areas, but not in any public reception area.
Although the new law does not take effect until July 1, it is not too soon for employers to begin planning for the impact that the Act will have on their workplaces. Should you have any questions about the new law, please contact the Ogletree Deakins attorney with whom you normally work or the Client Services Department at 800-603-1252 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: This article was published in the June 9, 2005 issue of the Georgia eAuthority.