Exposure To Tobacco Smoke In The Workplace And Workers’ Compensation In California: Is It Possible To Claim?

BY: Koszdin | Wednesday, September 19, 2018.

Do your coworkers smoke in the workplace so much that it is difficult to breathe at times? Or does your occupational environment get smoky because the office is improperly ventilated? You may be entitled to receive workers’ comp benefits in California.

Did you know that exposure to tobacco smoke in the workplace entitles you to collect worker’s compensation benefits if you can establish the link between your injury or illness and the environmental tobacco smoke at work? Well, now you do.

We brought our Los Angeles workplace injury attorney from the Koszdin, Fields & Sherry law firm to explain the eligibility of workers to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for injuries and illnesses caused or worsened by tobacco smoke at work.

The danger of environmental tobacco smoke at work

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is actually a common term used in workers’ comp claims filed by workers in Van Nuys, Los Angeles, and all across California. Also known as second-hand smoke, the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke are known to everyone.

Multiple studies have shown that ETS contains almost the same amount of toxins and carcinogens as first-hand smoke (tobacco smoke inhaled directly by the smoker). And while these toxins and carcinogens may be at less concentrated levels, they still pose health risks to those around the smoker.

Exposure to tobacco smoke in the workplace can cause or worsen a wide range of health problems similar to those a smoker can develop after years of smoking cigarettes.

Unsuccessful tobacco-related workers’ comp claims

The problem of non-smoker workers developing or aggravating medical conditions because of tobacco smoke in the workplace is not new. In fact, workers in California and all across the U.S. have been trying to recover compensation for the injuries and damages caused by their work-related exposure to tobacco smoke for decades.

And while these attempts were mostly unsuccessful, states have finally begun to recognize the problem of environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace in recent years. For years, workers’ comp claims filed on the basis of tobacco-related injuries and illnesses at work were denied not only because the claimant could not establish a direct link between his/her on-the-job responsibilities and smoke, but also because:

  • They could not establish a connection between their injury or illness and smoke;
  • They could not prove that the concentrated levels of environmental tobacco smoke were severe enough to cause or aggravate their medical condition; and
  • They could not prove that exposure to tobacco was limited to the workplace.

It’s actually possible to get workers’ comp benefits if your injury was caused by exposure to tobacco smoke

Our experienced worker’s compensation attorney in Los Angeles explains that part of the reason why workers have begun to succeed in their efforts to obtain workers’ comp benefits for medical conditions caused or worsened by exposure to tobacco smoke in the workplace is thanks to the fact that second-hand smoke is now considered an accidental injury.

The rationale behind this determination is that because a worker’s injury or illness is unexpected, his or her tobacco-related medical condition can be classified as an accidental injury.

Therefore, you may be entitled to workers’ comp benefits if your attorney along with medical professionals can establish that workplace conditions (your coworkers smoking, your office being unventilated, or customers smoking cigarettes and hookah) caused or aggravated your medical condition which creates certain physical limitations that interfere with your regular work duties or prevents you from working at all.

Also, submitting a claim to your employer may demonstrate that you need a smoke-free work environment in order to perform your duties. In that case, your employer will face a choice: to accommodate your needs (move you to another work environment or eliminate hazards in the existing environment) or pay you benefits.

What you need to prove to collect tobacco-related workers’ comp benefits

Other than that, you may be entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits if your injury or illness was caused or aggravated by tobacco smoke at work. In that case, you will have to prove the following:

  • Your sensitivity to environmental tobacco smoke;
  • The dangerously concentrated levels of second-hand smoke in the workplace (having to share the workplace with smokers counts, too);
  • Diagnosis of a medical condition known to be caused or worsened by second-hand smoke;
  • Minimal or no exposure to tobacco smoke outside of work (to exclude the possibility that your illness or injury could have been caused or aggravated by conditions unrelated to work).

Consult with our Los Angeles workplace injury attorney from the Koszdin, Fields & Sherry law firm to find out your best legal option to receive workers’ comp benefits for tobacco-related illness or injury. Call us at 818-812-5639 or  800-747-3447 for a free case evaluation.

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