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Up in Smoke: Your Guide to Workers Compensation and Secondhand Smoke

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If you get sick from secondhand smoke, often called environmental tobacco smoke, you may be eligible for workers comp benefits. In the past, it was hard for employees to get workers comp for secondhand smoke, but new laws have made it easier. Working around smoke puts you at risk for health conditions and the aggravation of existing conditions from breathing the chemicals. Here is some information on workers comp benefits and secondhand smoke.

Hazards of Secondhand Smoke

The Center for Disease Control reports that 70 of the 7000 chemicals found in secondhand smoke are carcinogens, or cancer-causing agents. A non-smoker exposed to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease by 25%-30%, the risk of stroke by 20%- 30%, and the risk of lung cancer by 20%-30%.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reports the risk of being exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace is four times greater than exposure in the home, and there are no safe levels of secondhand smoke. Another danger is third-hand smoke that is caused by the residue left on walls, furniture, or clothing. The residue from third-hand smoke lingers a long time after secondhand smoke clears.

American Disabilities Act

Some claims for secondhand smoke are filed under the American Disabilities Act passed by Congress in 1990. The ADA entitles you a right to work in a smoke-free environment under Title 1, if you have an illness aggravated by secondhand smoke. This means an employer with 15 or more employees has to comply to your request for a reasonable smoke-free area. An employer could argue that providing a smoke-free accommodation would be an undue hardship on them financially, and the ADA determines the validity of the claim.

Filing a Claim

Your claim will be more successful in the following circumstances:

  • The secondhand smoke aggravated your current condition or caused a new illness or condition, and the workplace is responsible making it an occupational disease.
  • You have a disability aggravated because of secondhand smoke, and the employer refused to accommodate you as required by ADA.
  • The workplace has poor ventilation, which makes it a hazard to your health.
  • You have a sensitivity to smoke.
  • Medical test have proven a relationship between the workplace and your illness.
  • You are exposed to little secondhand smoke outside of work, and you must share the workplace environment with smokers.

An illness related to secondhand smoke in the workplace can cause you to miss work, or it could make your environment intolerable. If you think you have a secondhand smoke workers comp case, consider hiring an attorney.