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An Employer's Guide To Compliance With the Tennessee Non-Smoker Protection Act

Step 1: Determine If Your Place of Employment is Covered by the NSPA

The NSPA bans smoking in all enclosed public places. The statute's broad definition includes almost every enclosed area that to which the public is invited. Thus, the non-smoking statute impacts almost every place of employment in the State of Tennessee. The following are statutory exemptions, which permit a small minority of businesses to permit smoking:

1. Non-enclosed spaces. Locations consisting of open air patios, porches and decks are exempt. This includes areas enclosed by garage doors, if those doors remain open. Tents or awnings with removable sides or vents are exempt.

There is no limitation in the statute regarding how far from an entrance smoking can occur.

Please note that an employer is still free to ban smoking in areas made exempt by the statute, so long as the employer owns or leases the land surrounding the entrance.

2. Hotels/Nursing Homes. Up to twenty five percent (25%) of rooms can be designated for smokers, as long as the rooms are contiguous and smoke cannot infiltrate non-smoking areas.

3. Businesses with three (3) or fewer employees can designated a private enclosed smoking room, as long as smoke does non infiltrate non-smoking areas.

4. Employees who drive commercial vehicles with no passengers may be permitted to smoke in the vehicle.

5. A business that prohibits individuals who are not twenty-one or older to enter the establishment, may allow smoking. The catch is that they must enforce the age-restriction by carding every individual as they enter the establishment.

6. A "private club" is allowed to permit smoking. Such clubs can only cater exclusively to members, and cannot advertise or open their place of business to the general public.

Step 2: Establish and Communicate a New Non-Smoking Policy to Your Employees

If you are in the majority of employers who have to comply with the NSPA, the following are recommended to bring your business into compliance with the act:

1. Create a written policy in the employee handbook. This should be a concise statement that communicates where smoking is prohibited/allowed and encourages employees to report violations of the NSPA to management. Have the employees review the policy, and sign a receipt acknowledging that they have read and understood the provision.

2. Communicate the policy to both applicants and employees. For applicants, include a small print line in the application informing the potential employee regarding the employer's stance regarding the ban on smoking.

3. Consistently enforce the ban on smoking inside your place of employment.

4. In the event an employee complains regarding the violation of the statute, treat the complaint seriously, to avoid the potential for employee retaliation against the complainant.

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