Q. Over the past few months I have been seeing more and more electronic cigarettes in our city. Last week, an employee walked into our office while smoking an electronic cigarette. I thought those days were over. I’d like to ban their use in our offices. I’ve heard that e-cigarettes are just as addictive as the real things.
A. In most cases, use of a lawful consumable product like e-cigarettes can be restricted in the workplace. (For example, employers are free to ban smoking or alcohol use, even though they are both legal). However, you should carefully evaluate any proposed ban, focusing on, morale, and any other work-related effects.
Some employers allow e-cigarettes because they minimize the length of smoke breaks. Other employers ban them due to a perceived decline in productivity. Think about all those issues before deciding on your policy.
While you are free to ban e-cigarettes at work, in most states you are prohibited from taking adverse action against employees for their use of lawful consumable products outside of work. Therefore, you should be careful about how you craft and enforce your policy.
Check with your attorney before considering adverse action against employees for their use of e-cigarettes at the bus stop or in images on social media sites like Facebook. Such actions may be protected if they occur off your premises during nonworking hours.