My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: South Carolina
I work in an office in a shopping plaza, that until a couple of months ago occupied 2 stories. My employer has been in this location for 20 years. Because we downsized, we did not need the space on the 2nd floor. We were originally told by the plaza management that it would be turned into storage with its own entrance. They ended up turning it into a private apartment with its own entrance, deadbolting the door we used to use to access the space.
I stopped by the management office on June 1, 2011 with a complaint of smoking coming from the space that was changed from office space to an apartment above our office. I was told by the property manager that the woman occupying the space had not signed a lease at that point and that it would be stipulated in the lease that smoking would not be permitted. I suffer from chronic sinusitis and get a sinus infection every time I am exposed to cigarette smoke. I explained this to him and he told me he would talk to the tenant. The smoking continued.
On June 14, 2011, I got a sinus infection and finally went to the doctor on June 17 because I felt I needed medical treatment. I was prescribed an antibiotic and prednisone. I tried calling the property manager several times the following week but he was out of the office each time and did not return any of my calls, regardless of whether I left a voice mail or a message with the person who answered the phone. I stopped by the office towards the end of that week and spoke to the property manager in person, who informed me that it was impossible for the smoke to come through the walls or vents and that someone in maintenance would do something to seal the door leading from our office to the space upstairs to prevent the smoke from coming through the old access door-not done.
At that time, he informed me that she is permitted to smoke in her section of the building. I asked if an apartment was permitted in the building since it is commercial and his reply was that it was permitted because it was "grandfathered in" since it has both a bathroom and a kitchen.
After speaking to several people in the real estate business, I was informed that this is not a case of being "grandfathered in". The definition of "grandfather clause" or "grandfathered in" is an exception that allows an old rule to continue to apply to some existing situations, when a new rule will apply to all future situations. It looks like I have two issues with the shopping plaza: 1) There is a personal apartment in a commercial building when that space was previously used as office space, regardless of the fact that it has both a bathroom and a kitchen 2) I feel that this violates Hilton Head's smoking ban, which bans smoking in all indoor bars, restaurants and work places and states that smoking is banned within 25 feet of doors or windows of a public building. Since my office (and the space above it) occupies a public building, I feel that the shopping plaza and the tenant are in violation of this ordinance. And, since this smoking ban took effect on May 1, 2007, during the time my employer occupied and used the office space on the second floor, the "grandfather clause" should not apply as this tenant moved in this year and not before May 1, 2007.
As a result of the sinus infection that was caused by the smoke I was forced to inhale in my workplace, I also suffered a neck injury. At a consultation with a chiropractor on July 6, 2011, I was informed that it is not unheard of for a neck injury to occur during a sinus infection as they are somewhat related to each other. The morning of June 21, 2011, while I was suffering from my sinus infection and taking antibiotics and prednisone for this infection, I woke up with severe neck pain. I was barely able to move my head. I assumed that it was caused by me taking prednisone, as one of the side effects of this medication is muscle and joint soreness and pain. Because the pain did not go away and my head movement was still very limited, I went to the doctor on June 24, 2011, where I was prescribed a muscle relaxant and something for pain. I was told that my neck pain was not caused by taking prednisone and it was suggested that I may want to
see a chiropractor. I have had two sessions, one on July 7 and one on July 14. While my range of movement is getting better and the pain is quite a bit better, I still don't have my full range of movement of my head back completely, nor, am I pain free. The chiropractor has suggested weekly sessions until I am better. My next appointment is on July 21.
The past 3 weeks haven't been too bad, but the smoke was bad today. I'm pretty certain I will get another sinus infection, especially since I work the next 8 days straight. While I have health insurance, I am out of pocket for what is not covered. I anticipate more out of pocket expenses. I have had to miss work and will probably have to miss more work.
What can I do?