California recently amended state law with regards to smoking in the workplace. The bill, which was signed by the governor on May 4, 2016, is intended to “prohibit the smoking of tobacco products in all (100 percent of) enclosed places of employment in this state . . . eliminating the need of local governments to enact workplace smoking restrictions.” The former law had not applied to employers with five or fewer employees and had allowed employers to permit employees to smoke in the company break room. It had also exempted several types of workplaces and enclosed spaces from coverage, including hotel lobbies, banquet rooms, bars, taverns, and warehouses.

The new amendment eliminates nearly all of these exceptions. The law now specifically provides that an employer or owner-operator of an owner-operated business may not knowingly or intentionally permit, and may not engage in, the smoking of any tobacco products at any “place of employment” or “enclosed space.” This includes the smoking of any e-cigarette or vapor product and applies to all employers that are open to the public, even if the business has no employees (but is instead run solely by the owner). An “enclosed space” also now includes “covered parking lots, lobbies, lounges, waiting areas, elevators, stairwells, and restrooms that are a structural part of the building.”

The only remaining exceptions include 20% of the guestroom accommodations in a hotel, motel, or similar lodging establishment; private smokers’ lounges, which are enclosed areas dedicated to the use of tobacco products; retail or wholesale tobacco shops; the cab of certain tractor trailers; certain patient smoking areas in long-term healthcare facilities, as defined in Section 1418 of the Health and Safety Code; and a few others where smoking is integral to the activity being conducted. However, although the law provides for these few limited exceptions, employers may prohibit smoking in any enclosed place of employment or business for any reason.

In order to comply with the new law, employers should ensure that appropriate notices are posted at each entrance of the building. Most employers should post a “No Smoking” sign.  For those authorized to permit smoking under one of the law’s limited exceptions, a sign stating that “Smoking is prohibited except in designated areas” should be posted. Failure to comply with the new law is punishable by a fine not to exceed $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation within one year, and $500 for a third and for each subsequent violation within one year.