Trucking company escapes lawsuit regarding cigarette smoke allergy

October 5, 2023

Tyson Fisher


Smith Transport, a trucking company from Roaring Spring, Pa., has dodged a lawsuit claiming discrimination of a trucker with a cigarette smoke allergy.

On Friday, Sept. 29, a federal court for the Western District of Pennsylvania granted Smith Transport its motion for summary judgment in a disability discrimination case. A former trucker sued the company for not accommodating his allergy to cigarette smoke, which was present in the truck he drove.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff, Craig Smith, began working for Smith Transport in March 2019. He moved his family from Delaware to Pennsylvania for the job. Smith claims that he worked between 65 and 70 hours per week. His job included driving a tanker truck and loading water from oil wells.

While employed with Smith Transport, Smith notified the company of his documented disabilities, including migraines, allergies and a specific allergy to cigarette smoke. The latter causes Smith to develop severe migraines and blurred vision.

Despite informing the company of these disabilities, Smith was required to drive in company trucks for extended periods of time while co-workers smoked cigarettes inside the vehicle.

Constant exposure to cigarette smoke led to Smith making multiple trips to the emergency room due to increased migraines, the complaint claims.

Smith complained about these conditions to Smith Transport’s management and safety director. After exhausting all internal resources, Smith filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Consequently, the health department issued a directive requiring the company to comply with the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act. Smith Transport refused to comply and told Smith to “simply deal with it,” according to the complaint.

Eventually, Smith was forced to resign from his position with Smith Transport. As a result, Smith moved his family back to Delaware, incurring extensive moving costs. Although Smith currently is employed, his new job is at a lower rate of pay with a different company.

On Dec. 14, 2020, Smith filed a lawsuit against Smith Transport. The lawsuit alleges four different counts, including:

  • Failure to accommodate and discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Disability discrimination in violation of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act
  • Wrongful discharge in violation of the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act
  • Violations of the Wage Payment and Collection Law

According to the court opinion, some accommodations were made by Smith Transport.

After being notified of Smith’s allergies, the company installed a new policy where a number of trucks were formally designated as non-smoking, with “no smoking” signs placed on the doors. In the event a non-smoking truck was unavailable, Smith was permitted to decline working his scheduled shift as well as the corresponding pay. However, Smith never took advantage of this accommodation, according to court documents. Rather, in instances where a non-smoking truck was unavailable, Smith opted to drive a truck that was designated smoking, rolling the windows down and keeping the air conditioner or heater off.

Smith Transport claims Smith does not have a disability per legal definitions but that, even if he did, the company made reasonable accommodations.

In the published opinion, the court decided that Smith does have a disability per the language of the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, the court also found that Smith Transport did make reasonable accommodations.

“Thus, it is clear that (Smith Transport) engaged in an interactive process with (Smith) to find a reasonable accommodation when, in response to (Smith’s) complaints and requests, it: enacted a new smoking protocol, designated non-smoking trucks, conducted an investigation after (Smith) made a complaint of smoking in his non-smoking truck, assigned (Smith) his own non-smoking truck and also contacted him regarding the improper placement of him in a smoking truck,” the court opinion states.

The federal court therefore found that no jury could reasonably infer Smith Transport failed to make a good faith effort to assist Smith. Consequently, the case has been closed. LL

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