A law which went into effect on October 29, 2013 means employees of New York hospitals and residential healthcare facilities may not smoke anywhere on the grounds or within fifteen (15) feet of any entrance or exit to a building or the grounds of such facilities. The law allows a narrow exception for patients of residential healthcare facilities and their visitors or guests, but there’s no exception for employees.

Although the New York Clean Indoor Air Act has prohibited smoking by employees in the workplace for years, that law doesn’t prohibit smoking outside an employer’s premises. The new amendment, signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on July 31, requires general hospitals and residential healthcare facilities to prohibit their employees from smoking on their grounds and within 15 feet of all entrances to or exits from their grounds.

The New York State Department of Health hasn’t yet issued guidance on the new law, and depending on how the law is eventually interpreted, smoking might be permitted in employees’ private vehicles parked on the grounds of general hospitals and residential healthcare facilities under a “private automobile” exception in a preexisting provision of the state’s smoking law.

Employees in all workplaces are generally prohibited from smoking indoors.  However, this new statutory amendment goes further for hospitals and residential healthcare employers, limiting employee smoking in outdoor areas as well.

Employers need to examine their policies to ensure they’re in compliance with the state’s laws and regulations governing smoking in the workplace.