Must you provide a smoke-free work environment?

Paula Graham, a clerical employee in the plant engineering department, believed with obvious justification that the inhalation of tobacco smoke was hazardous to her health.


Paula Graham, a clerical employee in the plant engineering department, believed with obvious justification that the inhalation of tobacco smoke was hazardous to her health. More than once she tried unsuccessfully to persuade Assistant Plant Engineer Jack Fenning, her direct supervisor, to use his influence to ban smoking on the job.

"It makes me cough," she claimed, "and every time I get a whiff of that smoke I feel like I'm breathing in cancer."

"I sympathize with your feeling," Fenning said. "I'd like to see smoking banned myself. But too many people object to it. Some of them work under a lot of pressure and feel, rightly or wrongly, that smoking helps them relax."

When Graham persisted in her crusade, in an effort to accommodate her, Fenning assigned her to a desk in a corner of the office that was relatively free of smoke.

Relatively free wasn't good enough for Graham. "I can still smell the noxious fumes."

"Sorry, Paula, that's the best I can do. I talked to Mr. Kramer. He says banning smoking in the department is out of the question."

"We'll see about that. The damn fumes are making me sick. Either you ban or I sue on the basis of disability."

Question : If Graham follows through with her threat, how do you rate her chance of success?

Kramer's opinion: Informed of Graham's threat, Plant Engineer Don Kramer's opinion was that she had no viable case. "While I concede that Graham may be allergic to the smoke and fearful of the adverse effects of inhaling it, she has failed to show any evidence that it makes her physically ill, or inhibits her normal functions. Due to these circumstances, she doesn't qualify as a disabled person under the law."

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Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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