Can an employer force you not to smoke, even on property they do not own?

UPDATED: Aug 26, 2011

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Can an employer force you not to smoke, even on property they do not own?

If an employer all of a sudden changes the smoking policy (smokers used to have designated smoking areas) to “no smoking” whatsoever up to a mile radius surrounding the employers property, is that legal? They are basically forcing smokers to go through their day without smoking, they are not allowed to smell like smoke coming into work, they cannot smoke in their cars while at work, and they now have to travel up to a mile away from their job in order to have a cigarette? The employer only owns their property up to the curb across the street, not a mile away? This is insane.

Asked on August 26, 2011 Pennsylvania


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

This is not legal and will not be enforced. While many companies (especially private and certain types of public employers) can have non-smoking policies, the limits are usually that of the property itself and usually include provisions that do not provide for smoking areas. The employer cannot preclude you from smoking in your own (not company-owned) motor vehicle and cannot limit you from smoking in public areas. Bottom line, you need to get that policy in writing and talk to your state's department of labor, the office of the attorney general in Pennsylvania and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This policy may be subject to scrutiny by those agencies and may bring to light other possible practices that may be discriminatory.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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