PASSIVE SMOKING IN COMPANIES: The employer is responsible

Labour Law

Source: Supreme Court. Social Ch. 3rd June 2015, n°14-11324

In this case, an employee, hired as a designer by a society, was on sick leave. Following the notice of inability to work without any second visit, with immediate danger noted by the occupational doctor and given the impossibility to reclassify her, she was subject to a dismissal procedure for inability to work. However, the employee seized the Labour Court for various requests related to the execution and the breach of the employment contract.

She particularly requested a specific compensation, resulting from the passive smoking, which she was a victim of.

In order to dismiss the employee from her requests, the Court of Appeal had noted that in the hand-written document particularly detailed and spontaneous, made for an assessment interview in March 2010, the employee was really satisfied of her work conditions, which she described as a great team atmosphere et good relations with the employer, and did not complain in any case of passive smoking or about the cold, though she had few comments about the noise.

The court had taken the employer's argument into consideration, adding that the employee accompanied her colleagues when going for a cigarette in the garage, although she was not forced to do so, and that her presence in the office was extremely low, being counted in days from October 2010, and from the medical certificate produced, the reason for her sick leaves was a calcifying tendinitis, disease which is not related at all to passive smoking.

The Supreme Court disagrees with the analysis adopted by the Court of Appeal as according to the article L.4121-1 of the Labour Code, the Supreme Court reminds the obligation of safety that remains to the employer.

The Supreme Court added that the motives pleaded by the employer were not sufficient to exonerate his responsibility on the subject of exposition to passive smoking.

One more time, this decision shows the serious obligation from the employer in the matter of hygiene and safety within his company.