Smoking Policy Applies To Attached Garage?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about no-smoking rules: I inquired if the garage is off-limits to smokers, and we were told it was. I’m not sure how the company can enforce this policy if we don’t own this garage

Our company has instituted a strict no-smoking policy which includes anywhere on property, any owned, leased or rented property. The policy also clearly states that while the company is not telling employees they cannot smoke, they cannot do it on company property. My office is a satellite office and attached to it is a PUBLIC parking garage that employees at my location park at. I really want to stress that while we do park in the garage, the garage itself does not have a smoking policy, and again, my company does not rent/lease it exclusively (other businesses, as well as the general public park there) I inquired if the garage is off-limits to smokers, and we were told it was. I’m not sure how the company can enforce this policy if we don’t own this garage. Thoughts ?

Signed, Asking For Others

DearĀ Asking For Others:

It doesn’t seem reasonable to sanction someone for smoking in a Smoking Allowed garage over which your company has no control, merely because it is attached to a building that contains a satellite office. Nevertheless, that would be very little consolation if smoking there resulted in harm to an employee’s career or professional reputation in the business. Probably the only way to know for sure how far your company will go to stop employees from smoking is to test the system. But, doing that could hurt an individual or team if higher level managers feel you or others are being insubordinate after you’ve specifically been told not to smoke in the garage.

Unless you have already asked formally and received an opinion in writing, consider asking again. Don’t do it by phone or by asking one person in HR or one supervisor. Make it a formal request for an opinion. You could say that you were given an informal opinion but would like to make sure that the full situation is understood. Take a photo of the area where smokers want to stand and incorporate that into your request. Show that non-smoking employees will not have to walk through smoke to leave their cars and go to work. Include a measurement of how far the area is from your company’s office.

Get a letter from the building managers saying that the garage is Smoking Allowed. In other words, have some evidence that it will not be a violation of company rules (or the spirit of company rules) for employees to smoke there. Or, if the issue is that employees want to smoke on the way to and from their automobiles, it may be enough to get a statement from the building manager that it is OK for them to do so. If employees really want to smoke, they could sit in their own cars to do it. In one situation with which I’m familiar, two employees who took that approach smelled so badly when they got to the office that they were required to “freshen up” before they could sit in office space! As you can see, there is no easy answer to the situation. But, there may be a way to soften the attitudes of the Headquarters decision-makers, by showing that the policy is respected and no rules are being violated. If they still say no, those employees who want to smoke will have to decide how much further they want to push it. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens and how it works out.

Tina Lewis Rowe