- What does the 'Smoking in the Workplace' law require?
- What are the employee rights specified in the law?
- Can an employer establish other policies like smoke free cars or outdoor areas of the workplace?
- Can an employer designate an outdoor smoking area?
- What does the law say about schools?
- Where can I get more information and a poster?
What does the 'Smoking in the Workplace' law require?
- The law prohibits smoking in the workplace.
- "Workplace" means an enclosed structure where employees perform services for an employer or, in the case of an employer who assigns employees to departments, divisions or similar organizational units, the enclosed portion of a structure where the unit to which the employee is assigned is located. "Workplace" does not include any portion of a structure that also serves as the employee's or employer's personal residence. Except for schools, "workplace" does not include areas commonly open to the public (but note that another law restricts smoking in most public places and a third law bans the use of tobacco products on public school grounds).
- This law also does not address smoking that takes place outdoors or in motor vehicles but there is a smoking ban in most public places including buses, taxis, trains.
- In 2009, Vermont amended its Smoking in the Workplace law to prohibit smoking inside all areas of the workplace. Prior to this amendment the law allowed employers to designate smoking areas if they obeyed certain rules. Now the law requires all indoor areas of workplaces to be 100% smoke free.
- The Department of Health recommends that employers post the 100% Smoke Free poster, which is available to download. The QUIT@WORK kit is also availalbe for employers seeking to help link employees to free quit smoking resources.
What are the employee rights specified in the law?
- They may file a complaint with the Department of Health by calling 866-331-5622. The Department of Health will give the employer written notification of the alleged violation and remind them of the indoor smoking prohibition. If the employer refuses to come into compliance, a penalty of $100 may be imposed.
- The law prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee because that employee assisted in the supervision or enforcement of the workplace smoking requirements. If an employee believes their employer has taken action against them due to such effort, they may, within 30 days after such a violation, file a complaint with the Commissioner of the Department of Health. The Commissioner must investigate such complaints and if he or she determines that there has been retaliation bring court action against the employer. The court may determine appropriate relief including reinstatement and back pay.
Can an employer establish other policies like smoke free cars or outdoor areas of the workplace?
The law only applies to workplaces within enclosed structures, like office buildings. However, many Vermont employers have already voluntarily established smoke free campus policies or smoke free outdoor areas around the perimeter of buildings. Setting policies for smoking in company vehicles, or vehicles located on company property, is up to the individual employer. Sample policies are available online at Quit@Work.
Can an employer designate an outdoor smoking area?
Yes. The law does not restrict smoking outdoors, and does not specifically address whether the employer should or should not allow smoking to occur within a certain distance of a workplace. However, the employer should not allow outdoor smoking near doorways, windows and building air supply intakes, through which tobacco smoke may readily enter the building.
What does the law say about schools?
Because Vermont enacted a subsequent law that bans all tobacco use on public school grounds, the portions of this law that apply to schools are relevant only to private schools. The more recent law regarding public schools supercedes this earlier law.
The requirements that apply to any workplace under this law apply as well to schools, except that
- For schools, "workplace" includes any enclosed location at which instruction or other school-sponsored functions are occurring and students are present.
- For purposes of determining smoking policy for those schools that have school boards, the law defines the "employer" as being the school board.
Where can I get more information and a poster?
Employers are encouraged to post the smoke free workplace poster to notify employees and the public about this change. The Vermont Department of Health can also help employees who may be motivated to quit through our VT Quit Network services.
Vermont Department of Health
108 Cherry Street - P.O. Box 70
Burlington, VT 05402-0070
Toll-free From Within Vermont: