In a decision that could set a precedent for hospitality workers across Canada, an Ottawa waitress has been awarded workers' compensation because of second-hand smoke.
It is the first time ever in Canada that a waiter or waitress has been granted workers' compensation after contracting cancer from "environmental" smoke.
Heather Crowe has been a waitress for 40 years, much of it at the Newport Restaurant in the heart of Westboro. She had to stop working last summer after she was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.
"Two doctors have said that my cancer is a smoker's tumour and since I never smoked a day in my life, this is second-hand smoke related," said Crowe.
Like many waiters and waitresses, Crowe has spent long hours over many years working in bars and restaurants blue with smoke. So, she applied for workers compensation. Her lawyer, Phil Hunt, argued that her work environment was directly responsible for her illness.
"Our understanding is that the [Workplace Safety and Insurance Board] has made a determination that it was the exposure to second-hand smoke in the bars and restaurants that caused her to contract the cancer," said Hunt.
A year ago, the City of Ottawa banned smoking in all bars and restaurants, largely based on the argument that employees should not have to be subjected to second-hand smoke.
- FROM AUG. 1, 2002 - Happy anniversary smoking bylaw
While it came too late for Crowe, she hopes other towns and cities learn from what happened to her and pass similar bylaws.
"I mean, we pay our taxes and the legislation should cover us as well. We should be entitled to clean air in our work environment," said Crowe.
Crowe is now starting radiation treatment, although her doctors tell her the prognosis is not good. With treatment, she may live six months to three years.