One whistleblower's claim: smoking ban was ignored

Life can get complicated when a worker decides to go one-on-one with an employer, citing a failure to enforce nonsmoking rules.

Although The Boston Globe has a smoke-free policy in its offices, one employee alleges the paper has not enforced it in its Dorchester, Mass., pressroom.

"I have medical problems and should not be in an enclosed area where people smoke," says the man, who did not want his name used for this story.

He says he has complained for years to everyone from the publisher to the head of safety, but nothing has been done to enforce the company's rules. "They said: 'We won't tolerate this,' but did nothing to follow through."

Instead, he says, the foreman has identified him as "a rat." He says he has been harassed severely, had death threats issued against himself and his family, as well as having photos of his children with Xs across their faces taped to his locker.

"I reported it to company security, who said they were appalled, but [they] have not done anything about it," he says.

He spent two months out of work without pay and was forced to hire an attorney. Now, he's going back to work - with the same safety concerns.

A Globe spokesman, Rich Gulla, says the firm has met with union representatives, and on May 9 posted notices that it plans to strictly enforce no-smoking rules with more patrols by its security details.

"All supervisors are expected to enforce the ban," says Mr. Gulla. He says the Globe did not report the threats to the police because it considered the incident an "internal matter." The company has offered to help track anonymous threatening calls made to the employee's home.

But the Globe has known for some time that its past attempts to eliminate smoking have failed. In May 1999, it wrote the Pressman's union that it intended to strictly enforce the smoking ban. Since then, Gulla says, the Globe has caught people smoking and reminded them not to do it again.

In fact, the only one disciplined so far has been the individual complaining about the smoking. To protest his frustration with management, he repeatedly parked his car in the visitors' lot. The Globe called in a tow truck, and the man was suspended after he physically tried to stop his car from being towed away.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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