In most workplaces around the world, smoking is prohibited, but few employers have developed a separate policy to dictate whether ecigs can be used in the workplace. Most of the time, employers assume that workers will know that no smoking also means no vaping, but that is not necessarily the case. As all vapers know, ecigs are not tobacco products and you can often vape in places where smoking is prohibited. Recently, vaping was addressed in an employment tribunal for the first time after a vaping employee ended up walking away from the job.
The tribunal was studying the case between Insley and Accent Catering. As an employee of Accent Catering, Insley was aware that smoking was prohibited, but there was no written or spoken rule to prohibit ecig use so she would sometimes vape in the workplace. She provided catering services in a high school and when a teacher noticed her vaping in view of students, she complained to the catering company and said Insley’s behavior was grossly inappropriate.
The catering company decided to call Insley in for a disciplinary hearing, but before the hearing date arrived, she resigned and walked away from the job. No one can really blame her because it was obvious that she was probably facing dismissal and it’s typically better to quit before you get fired.
Even though Insley had already quit, the tribunal met to discuss the case anyway and while they didn’t charge Accent Catering with any misconduct, they did warn that policies needed to be updated immediately if employees were going to face disciplinary action for using ecigarettes. The tribunal said that ecigs cannot be lumped in with tobacco products and there should be a separate policy for e-cigarettes so rules are clear and openly communicated to all employees.
The tribunal’s warning seems like good advice for all employers. If a company would fire an employee for vaping without having a written rule about e-cigarettes, they could likely face legal ramifications. The bottom line is that if workplaces want to get rid of e-cigarettes, they need to follow the appropriate protocols and establish a clear rule and let employees know the expectations.
Do you think Insley was treated unfairly? Should Accent Catering offer her another chance at her job and apologize for how the situation was handled?