As a myriad of new state laws go into effect, employers are reminded of the Louisiana Smokefree Air Act and La. R.S. 23:966.
The Louisiana Smokefree Air Act took effect January 1, 2007, and applies not only to public buildings, schools, and restaurants, but also applies to Louisiana employers. One of the Act’s stated purposes is to “protect non-smokers from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke in . . . places of employment.”
Under the Smokefree Air Act, an employer may not knowingly permit smoking in any enclosed area within a place of employment. The Act does not prohibit smoking “in the outdoor area of places of employment”; however, employers may post “no smoking” signs and prohibit smoking in outdoor areas. Pursuant to the Act, employers are also required to post “no smoking” signs in places of employment where smoking is prohibited by the Act. However, the Act does not address situations where, for example, an employer has multiple offices within a single building. Employers who violate the Act are subject to fines. Because the Act is relatively new, there is no jurisprudence interpreting the Act.
While the Smokefree Air Act protects non-smokers, La. R.S. 23:966 provides limited protections to smokers. Under La. R.S. 23:966, as long as an employee complies with applicable law and the employer’s policies regarding smoking, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate with respect to discharge, compensation, promotion, any personnel action or condition, or privilege of employment because the person is a smoker or non-smoker. Under La. R.S. 23:966, it is also unlawful to require, as a condition of employment, that an individual abstain from smoking or otherwise using tobacco products outside the course of employment. La. R.S. 23:966 states, however, that nothing in the statute precludes an employer from formulating and adopting a policy regulating an employee’s workplace use of a tobacco product or from taking any action consistent therewith.