drug and alcohol testing

Recreational cannabis is very much in the spotlight as the date for legalization approaches. Yet issues related to employee use of medical cannabis are still front and centre for many employers, as demonstrated by a pair of recent arbitration decisions: Re IBEW, Local 1620 and Lower Churchill Transmission Construction Employers Assn. Inc. (Uprichard) (2017), 281 LAC (4th) 246 (“Lower Churchill 1”) and Re Lower Churchill Transmission Construction Employers Assn. Inc. and IBEW, Local 1620 (Tizzard) 2018 Carswell Nfld 198 (“Lower Churchill 2”).
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The date set for the legalization of marijuana in Canada is now just over 7 months away. With legalization looming and the holiday season upon us, it is now more important than ever for employers to take proactive steps to respond to the changing legal and social landscape.
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In 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that, before employees in safety sensitive positions can be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing, it must be established that there is a general problem of substance abuse in the workplace (see our article summarizing that decision here)But what evidence is relevant to this inquiry? Should the employer consider its entire industry, its particular worksites, or just the employees in a particular bargaining unit?
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In a recent decision, Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) held that the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal (“Tribunal”) reasonably concluded that a worker who tested positive for drugs following a workplace accident was terminated because he breached the employer’s drug policy and not for discriminatory reasons. This decision is a welcome result for employers faced with safety risks due to substance use in their workplace.
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Random drug and alcohol testing for most Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) employees can proceed following a decision of Justice Marrocco denying the ATU Local 113’s application for an injunction earlier this week. The ruling permits the TTC to test 10,000 of its 14,000 employees, including those deemed to be in “safety-sensitive” jobs, as well as those in designated management positions and all executives (including CEO Andy Byford) under the TTC’s Fitness for Duty Policy (the Policy).
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