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I just started a new paralegal job, which I'm really excited about. This represents a career change for me. But I have a big problem.
I work closely with one person, let's call her J. When I went for my interview it was in the morning, and I didn't notice any smell of cigarette smoke in the office or when J. was near me. She didn't mention to me that she smokes.
However, on the job, I learned that J. steps out for cigarette breaks outdoors and brings the smell of cigarette smoke back in with her on her clothes. As the day progresses and she starts to feel the pressure of work, the frequency of the smoke breaks increases and the smell gets worse.
The smell really bothers me. Some of this is subjective, but some is based on observations I've made in the past, that when I'm exposed in this way, I often tend to come down with a respiratory infection, which includes laryngitis, and then I miss some work days (sometimes as much as ten days), and I have a hard time functioning in general.
We don't share an office. Our offices are adjoining. If I could convince her to talk to me on the phone, and to use screenshots sent back and forth via email or stored in our networked file sharing system, I think I might be okay.
There is an air purifier in a third person's office and I think that moving it into J.'s office would be helpful.
On the morning of the first day of work, the head person in the office (the one who has an air purifier in his office) had J. and me meet with him to talk over some logistics of the job. At that time, J. informed me of her custom of taking smoke breaks but emphasized that she never smokes inside. I said I was glad to hear that she always goes outside, given that I am, as I said, "violently allergic to cigarette smoke." So, they both are aware of my sensitivity.
I've had an irritated throat for the last few days and even after two days of rest and clean air at home, I have the feeling that my body is struggling with this, and that the jury is still out as to whether the Tuesday, Thursday and Friday exposure last week is going to put me down for the count. Especially with the new exposure coming up this week.
I don't know if I have any rights about this, but even if I do, it seems too early to bring up my rights. This firm consists solely of the owner of the air purifier, J, and me.
Any suggestions for how to handle this would be much appreciated.
I haven't counted the smoke breaks exactly, but I'd guess there are two in the morning and five in the afternoon.
I live in the U.S., specifically, upstate New York. I checked what the local health department has published on the subject and have not found that J. is breaking any local ordinance by smoking next to the front or back door.
I'm thinking that air purifier might be my salvation, if I can just get her to stop visiting my desk to collaborate about projects we're working on together, when she's just come back in.
Edit: More precise information about the layout: There is a long hallway with a front door and a back door. My desk is in a widened part of the hallway, about 2/5 of the way back, opposite the door to the conference room. The first room as one enters the office is the one that currently has the air purifier in it. The second one is J's. (The third is the conference room.) When everyone is in the office, all the doors are open. But as you can see, my office does not have walls or doors. I'm not sure how effective the air purifier would be in my area, but I'm game to try.