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Some Successful Lawsuits:

Unemployment Compensation

Speaking Points

Mr. Flaniken, an accounting technician with the Internal Revenue Service, had a severe allergy to cigarette smoke.  At his place of employment there was a no-smoking policy, but his employer refused to enforce it.  Mr. Flaniken quit and filed for unemployment benefits.  An administrative tribunal ruled in his favor.64

Mr. McCrocklin, an engineering writer, was forced to work in a smoke-ridden environment.  After unsuccessfully seeking relief, he quit his job.  The Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board denied his compensation claim, stating that he had left work voluntarily without good cause.  The Court of Appeals reversed that decision, holding that Mr. McCrocklin had good reason to fear for his health.65  

Ms. Lapham suffered from chronic bronchitis due to exposure to secondhand smoke.  Her office did not have a smokefree policy and she worked close to smokers.  At her request, her boss moved her desk, but she was still within 10 to 15 feet from a heavy smoker and 20 feet from a second smoker.  Continuing to be bothered by the smoke, Ms. Lapham resigned and applied for unemployment benefits.  An unemployment referee granted her petition.  However, the referee’s decision was appealed and the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review ruled that there was no “necessitous and compelling cause” for her resignation and, therefore, denied her benefits.  She then successfully appealed to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.  The court ruled that the employer’s relocation of the employee was not a “reasonable accommodation” to her and that her resignation was in fact for a necessitous and compelling cause.66

64 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.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

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