Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has signed into law the “Georgia Smokefree Air Act of 2005,” which will prohibit smoking in many parts of private and public workplaces. The new law will take effect on July 1, 2005.

The Act prohibits smoking in all “enclosed areas” within “places of employment” that employees use during the course of their employment. Examples of areas covered by this statute include common work areas, auditoriums, bars and restaurants, manufacturing facilities, classrooms, conference and meeting rooms, private offices, elevators, hallways, medical facilities, cafeterias, employee lounges, stairs, restrooms, and all other enclosed facilities. However, employers are allowed to have designated “smoking areas,” as long as the employee is not required to enter the areas to conduct business.

The law does have a number of exemptions. It is lawful to continue allowing smoking in the following areas:

  • Designated hotel and motel rooms rented to guests, provided they do not exceed 20% of rooms rented to guests.
  • Outdoor areas, even if under the control of a public or private employer and even if employees use the areas in the course of their employment.
  • Private rooms in licensed healthcare facilities occupied by persons explicitly authorized by a treating physician to smoke.
  • Bars and restaurants that hire and serve only people over the age of 18, and bars and restaurants that have private enclosed rooms with independent air filtering systems that exhaust all air directly outside.
  • Convention facility meeting and conference rooms not owned or operated by the State or a State agency, provided that the facility is used for private functions and that individuals under 18 do not attend the function or work at it.
  • All employer-designated smoking areas, except in bars and restaurants, provided: the area is in a non-work area where no employee is required to enter as part of his or her work responsibilities (except for janitorial and maintenance work when the room is unoccupied), and provided the room also has an independent air filtering system.
  • Common work areas, conference and meeting rooms, and private offices (except in medical facilities) that are open to the general public by appointment only; however, smoking is prohibited in the public reception areas.

The law also allows an owner or other person in control of an establishment to declare that the entire establishment is a non-smoking area.

The law has some other noteworthy provisions:

  • Any entity that is “exempt” (see above) must post conspicuously at every entrance a sign stating that smoking is permitted.
  • Any entity that prohibits smoking may post no-smoking signs or the international no-smoking symbol (pictorial representation of a burning cigarette inside a red circle with a red bar) in areas where smoking is prohibited.
  • In places of employment where smoking is prohibited, all ashtrays must
  • be removed unless they are permanently affixed.
  • Any person who smokes in violation of the law will be guilty of a misdemeanor and, if convicted, can be fined from $100 to $500.
  • All employers must communicate the prohibitions to their current employees on or before July 1, 2005, and to all prospective employees upon application for employment.

If you have questions concerning this law, or any other laws affecting employers in Georgia, please contact any of our lawyers in Constangy’s Atlanta or Macon offices.

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