Former waitress awarded workers' compensation

Ontario woman diagnosed with terminal lung cancer never smoked a day in her life

An Ontario waitress who contracted lung cancer from second-hand smoke has been awarded workers’ compensation.

Heather Crowe, 57, a former waitress and non-smoker, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer last March. She had worked for 40 years as a waitress, the last 15 in an Ottawa restaurant. Over the years she worked at restaurants across the country, including Calgary and Toronto.

She submitted a claim in July for benefits and the claim was approved earlier this week. Her lawyer, Phil Hunt, said he believes it’s the first time in Canada that an employee in the service industry has been awarded workers’ compensation for second-hand smoke.

“To our research, it is completely unprecedented in Ontario or Canada,” Hunt told the Globe and Mail. “I felt I knew for a long time that exposure to second-hand smoke was a danger. Did I have any cognizance of the magnitude of that danger? No. Absolutely not.”

He said the submissions made to the compensation board relied on information from studies done on the California food-services industry that found heavily exposed restaurant workers inhaled the equivalent of about two packs of cigarettes a day.

Crowe will receive compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and other undisclosed needs, said Hunt.

Television viewers across the country will soon be aware of Crowe, as she’s set to appear in a Health Canada anti-tobacco advertising campaign. She’s featured in a commercial discussing her situation and the fact that she’s never smoked a cigarette in her life.

Crowe said she doesn’t harbour any bad feelings towards the food-services industry, but thinks its time the government stepped in with legislation to protect workers.

A spokesman for Ontario’s Workplace Safety and Insurance Board said this is the third time compensation has been offered to an individual who claimed disability from second-hand smoke in the workplace. The other two cases involved a prison guard and a person working in a confined space.

Latest stories