New Smoking Law Affects North Dakota Employers

November 7, 2012

By Lisa Edison-Smith, Attorney

MSBA Certified Labor and Employment Law Specialist

On the heels of a fiercely contested U.S. Senate race and seemingly endless number of initiated measures, many North Dakotans may be feeling the effects of a bad case of election year burnout.  Measure number 4, one of the initiated measures approved by voters, however, directly affects North Dakota employers and requires action within 30 days of the election.

The measure– The ballot text of the smoking measure “prohibit[s] smoking, including the use of electronic smoking devices, in public places and most places of employment in the state, including certain outdoor areas.”  It also provides that employers have “notification and enforcement responsibilities” as part of the measure.  The measure was overwhelmingly passed by North Dakota voters by a 2 to 1 margin.

The fine print – The full text of the measure is much lengthier than the abbreviated ballot version and places a number of requirements on North Dakota employers, including requirements that employers: 

  • Prohibit smoking within 20 feet of “entrances, exits, operable windows, air intakes, and ventilation systems of enclosed areas” of places of employment;
  • Clearly and conspicuously post no smoking signs or the international no smoking symbol in places of employment as defined by the Act, including vehicles; 
  • Remove all ashtrays from any area where smoking is prohibited, except for ashtrays displayed for sale and not for use on the premises; and, 
  • Communicate to all existing employees and to all prospective employees on their application for employment that smoking is prohibited in the workplace (including company vehicles) by the effective date of the Act.

Under North Dakota law, initiated measures are effective 30 days from the date of the election.  This means North Dakota employers must take steps to comply with the new measure within 30 days of November 6, or by December 6, 2012.

What should you do?  - Carefully review the statute.  The full text is available on the North Dakota Secretary of State’s website.  Take steps to inform employees and applicants of the new smoking prohibition and comply with its notice requirements, including posting signs in company buildings and vehicles.  Remove ashtrays, and modify your policies and employment application to clearly indicate that smoking is prohibited in company facilities and vehicles and within 20 feet of entrances.  Finally, do not allow any person to smoke in those areas protected under the statute.  According to the law, you must instruct any individual smoking in violation of the statute to extinguish all smoking materials or leave the premises.

***This is a summary of the requirements of the new smoking measure only.  It does not constitute legal advice in any particular situation.  If you have questions about the statute or other issues of employment law, please contact any member of the Vogel Law Firm’s Labor & Employment Law Group at 701-237-6983 Fargo or 701-258-7899 Bismarck.