Are there liability risks for an employer in allowing the use of e-cigarettes in the workplace?

Author: Stefan H. Black, FordHarrison LLP

Yes. An employer that allows employees to vape while at work should expect to be sued by employees (and possibly customers) claiming to have suffered an injury or illness because of the exposure to e-cigarette vapor. Such claims may include the following:

  • Employees who claim to suffer an illness or injury because of secondhand vapor may file a workers' compensation claim against the employer;
  • Employees with severe allergies, respiratory conditions or skin sensitivities may claim that the employer failed to reasonably accommodate their disability by allowing vaping while at work; and
  • In some states, employees may file a lawsuit claiming that the employer failed to provide a safe workplace by allowing vaping at work.

The viability of these claims depends on the employee's ability to prove that the exposure to e-cigarette vapor caused the negative health condition. However, because research regarding the health effects of e-cigarette vapor is still in its infancy, it is too early to predict whether employees will be successful on these claims.