I work in an open office in a public building. My boss has a personal office, where he often smokes. Where I work in Mexico, you can be fined for smoking in a public space.

This bothers me because I have sinusitis. How should I address this before taking legal action? We are a small company, so we don't have HR that I could go to.

  • 6
    What, if anything, do you have in the way of an HR department? Legal action seems way, way premature here. Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 19:57
  • 1
    Get another job lined up with a concrete contract, because this will cause you grief in your present job, and if your next employer finds out they might not be impressed either.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 20:08
  • 1
    How close are you to his office? If you are not that close is it really bothering you - or are you niffed that he is smoking where other places in the building he cannot
    – Ed Heal
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 20:09
  • @JoeStrazzere we are a small company, i think that would be our recepcionest/secretary all-in.one =/
    – Progs
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 20:30
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    "Addressing it" when you're already considering legal action makes me think you should talk to a lawyer before doing anything. VTC.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 22:13

4 Answers 4


Forget the law about smoking in a public building for a moment. Even if you are right that he can be fined, bringing that up is going to cause a lot of sore feelings. Nobody appreciates being ratted out to the authorities, no matter how wrong they are, and it should be your last resort.

Instead, consider the problem as if there were no legal remedy. I think most people, especially smokers, would consider smoking in a personal office to be reasonable behavior. If he keeps the door shut while smoking, then there shouldn't be enough smoke leaking out to cause problems for the grand majority of people. It's possible you are the only one bothered this, so don't approach him as if he is posing some dire health threat to the entire office. He's not; he's acting in a reasonable way that happens to cause problems for you, and you need to find a solution that is agreeable to you both.

I suggest you meet with him at your desk or a conference room. Say something like "I understand you like to smoke in your office, but even small amounts of smoke bother me due to a medical condition." Then suggest a solution that allows him to smoke and you to not have to suffer it. Can you be assigned a desk that's farther away from his office? Can you find someplace to meet other than his office in the future? Can he keep the door shut for at least fifteen minutes after finishing a cigarette and/or open a window? You get the idea.

In short, there is likely a solution that will make you both happy. Find it and pitch it to your boss. Do not attack, threaten, or blame him. He's not your adversary; he's someone you need to work with to solve a problem. If you go to him with a cooperative attitude rather than a confrontational one, he is very likely to want to help you.

  • +1 for suggesting that the OP should, to paraphrase a cliché, bring his boss solutions, not problems
    – Trebor
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 9:37

If you were to privately talk to him about this, that not only does it bother you, it's painful (because sinus problems are painful), how do you think he would react? As my wife always tells me, "It's all in the approach." If you think he's a considerate guy, and is self-aware enough to realize he's got an addiction to a habit that affects others, just try talking to him honestly. I've worked with people at both ends of the spectrum; some who were considerate to others' sensitivity to smoke and some who would stub out their cigarette on your face if you complained. As always, whatever you decide, make sure your resume is up to date before you broach the subject. Good luck.


A lot depends on if you think you could report this to HR anonymously. If so then report to HR. If not then approach your boss or go all in and report to city health officials.

  • 1
    It might seem obvious, but I think it would be very helpful to have some info on what to expect when reporting to city health officials
    – user30031
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 20:13

This all depends on where exactly you are located.

Many States have laws prohibiting smoking in any building the public could access.

You say you work in an 'open office'.

What exactly do you mean by that phrase? A wide open floor of a building, with cubicles? A public building that allows anyone to come and go whenever they please?

Perhaps you could simply type an anonymous letter and leave it in his office, or slide it under the door.

Does the office he resides in have a window that can be opened? Might be a good start... "Open the window!"

Is there air conditioning connected between that office and the rest of the building? You may be able to get one of the facility personnel to make a statement.

You may be able to take a photo of him smoking, print it, and leave it on his doorstep with the words "You are breaking the law" or something similar?

I apologize for this, as I feel it is too 'passive aggressive' for myself to do.

I would sincerely ask the manager to cease before being responsible for my medical bills; include a copy of your actual doctor bill to show it is a valid issue and you are not just trying to cause grief for the fun of it. Also make sure to do this where other employees can see but not hear you. If the manager does anything incorrect/rude/obnoxious/unlawful repeat back what he said loud enough for everyone to hear. Unless the manager mentions it, avoid commenting about the the law in relation to the manager. It will definitely be a hot topic.

This answer may not be acceptable for you, but it is what I would do.

And my last suggestion if the others aren't acceptable:

Public building? Invite/Call/arrange for a few city people to come in. Or school children. Or your neighbor.

Have them begin the fight for you.

  • 2
    OP is located in Mexico
    – user30031
    Commented Feb 9, 2017 at 20:56

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