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Workplace Smoking Rules in the District of Columbia

Filed under Managing the Workplace. Fact checked on June 22, 2012.

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Employers in the District of Columbia must comply with these state rules regulating smoking in the workplace.

The smokefree workplace law generally applies to all places of employment and public places.

Employers covered: Employers with one or more employees.

The Mayor may grant an economic hardship waiver from the requirements of the smokefree workplace law provided that prior to the granting of the waiver, the applicant establishes, to the satisfaction of the Mayor, that compliance with the law has caused or will cause undue financial hardship. Places where smoking is permitted due to an economic hardship waiver must:

  1. have been in existence on or before January 1, 2007;
  2. not allow smoking in an area that exceeds 25 percent of the total area if the place is a restaurant; and
  3. be subject to conditions or restrictions as may be necessary to minimize the adverse effects of smoking and be consistent with the general purpose of the smokefree workplace law.

Written policy requirements: Employer policy not specified.

Posting requirements: The owner, manager, or person in charge of any place, elevator, or vehicle where employees or the public may congregate must post signs that read, "No Smoking Under Penalty of Law," "No Smoking Except in Smoking Areas," or "Smoking In Accordance With Employer's Smoking Policy Only." Where smoking is either prohibited or restricted, signs must also include the internationally recognized no-smoking symbol.

No smoking areas: Smoking is prohibited in:

  • elevators, except for those in single-family dwellings
  • a public selling area of a retail store, with exceptions
  • public assembly or hearing rooms leased by the government
  • any restaurant, including bar areas
  • any public or private workplace
  • offices and apartment lobbies

Permitted smoking areas: The following places are exempt from the smokefree workplace law:

  • a retail store that is used primarily for the sale of tobacco products and accessories in which the total annual revenue generated by the sale of non-tobacco products or accessories is no greater than 25 percent of the total revenue of the establishment and provided that it does not share space with any other establishment
  • a tobacco bar
  • an outdoor area of a restaurant, tavern, club, brew pub, or nightclub
  • a hotel room or motel room rented to one or more guests
  • a medical treatment, research, or nonprofit institution where the activity of smoking is conducted for the purpose of medical research or is an integral part of a smoking cessation program
  • theatrical productions

Places that permit smoking pursuant to the smokefree workplace law cannot require employees to work in smoking areas provided that an employee requests to work solely in nonsmoking areas.

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