Some Successful Lawsuits:
Injunctive Relief Under Common Law
Ms. Shimp, a service representative working for New Jersey Bell Telephone Co., is allergic to cigarette smoke. Arguing that she was entitled, under common law, to a safe working environment she sought injunctive relief.60 The court agreed and ordered her employer to provide a smokefree area in her workplace.61
Ms. McCarthy, an office worker in Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), developed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Her doctor advised her that she could only work in a “clean air environment” which DSHS did not provide. She brought a suit seeking industrial insurance benefits. A lower court dismissed her claim, but the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court ruling.62 Finally, the Supreme Court of Washington upheld the Court of Appeals decision and stated “the employer’s common law duty to provide a safe workplace includes a duty to provide a working environment reasonably free from tobacco smoke.”63
60 Ranii, D. Tobacco’s legal road; non-smokers get fired up. National Law Journal, April 9, 1984.
61 Sweda, E. Summary of Legal Cases Regarding Smoking in the Workplace and Other Places. Boston, MA: Northeastern University School of Law Tobacco Control Resource Center, May 2000.