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Smoking and North Carolina workers' compensation

Most employers in the state are required to provide insurance that will protect employees from injury or illness suffered in the workplace by providing benefits to cover medical costs, loss of wages, in appropriate cases, disability expenses in the event a worker is injured on-the-job or becomes ill due to the work environment. North Carolina residents might take interest in a recent bill that is being considered in another state. The proposed legislation would ban smoking in the workplace. State-wide ordinances would be imposed upon all places of employment in an effort to cut down on alleged cases of deaths suffered from second-hand smoke exposure. Such legislation could have a potential effect on workers' compensation claims.

Proponents of the legislation say that it has been a long time coming and that more than 950 people die each year from exposure to second-hand smoke in certain areas. The supporters also claim that illnesses related to smoking cost tens of millions of dollars annually. Those who oppose the projected bill claim that these types of decisions are best left to individual communities and places of employment. Further, they state, it should remain a person's individual right to choose whether he or she smokes or works in a place where smoking is allowed.

One senator, a former medical doctor, stated that smoking is an issue that greatly affects public health and safety in the workplace. He claims that a business owner must take into account the personal right of an employee to enjoy a safe work environment. The proposed bill, which is pending in Kentucky, will fine any employer who does not adhere to the ban.

At this time, North Carolina does not have a state-wide ban on smoking in the workplace. However, employers are required to offer workers' compensation to provide benefits for those who have been injured or made ill on the job. If a person believes that he or she has been harmed by second-hand smoke or another potential toxin in the workplace, he or she has a right to consult an attorney to pursue the benefits to which one may be entitled.

Source: theolympian.com, "Proposed workplace smoking ban clears Kentucky house panel", Bruce Schreiner, Feb. 5, 2015

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