Many people work in places where drug and alcohol testing is not something that people have to deal with. However, in certain situations, employment agreements might stipulate that an employer is able to perform random drug and alcohol tests, or in other situations, a workplace may be one that is dangerous and as a result, drug and alcohol testing are permissible even without an employment agreement addressing it. In a recent case heard by the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, an employee asked the court to not allow his employer to do drug or alcohol testing despite its permissibility in the employment contract.
Employment contract allows for drug and alcohol testing
The employer is a transport company and started performing random drug and alcohol tests for employees in safety-sensitive positions since 1999 or earlier. The employee worked for the employer on two occasions since 1999, and both employment agreements he signed stated that he could be subject to random testing as a condition of his employment. Despite this, the employee claimed that case law states that such testing is not permissible.
Does case law put restrictions on drug and alcohol testing?
The employee told the court that a 2013 Supreme Court of Canada decision states that random drug and alcohol testing is prohibited as a general rule, and that it should only be allowed if there is “evidence of enhances safety risks, such as evidence of a general problem with substance abuse in the workplace.” The test established in that case came with three requirements, which were:
- that the employer adopted the standard for a purpose rationally connected to the performance of the job;
- that the employer adopted the particular standard in an honest and good faith belief that it was necessary to the fulfilment of that legitimate work-related purpose; and
- that the standard is reasonably necessary to the accomplishment of that legitimate work-related purpose. To show that the standard is reasonably necessary, it must be demonstrated that it is impossible to accommodate individual employees sharing the characteristics of the claimant without imposing undue hardship upon the employer.
Differences between case cited and employment contracts
While the decision cited by the employee is certainly established law, there is a crucial difference between the circumstances in this case and that which was heard by the Supreme Court. This difference is that the Supreme Court’s case was in regards to unilaterally imposed random drug and alcohol testing in a unionized workplace. In that case, the court held that random testing could only be imposed if it was included in a collective agreement.
In this case, there is no union, and more so, the employee signed an employment contract giving his employer permission to test him for drugs and alcohol, which means he had agreed to be tested. The court cited a 1927 Supreme Court of Canada decision which stated that when there is nothing ambiguous in a contract, its plain terms must be given effect.
As a result, the employee was unsuccessful in his attempt to receive an injunction against his employer.
When it comes to employment contracts and workplace policies, the employment team at HMC Lawyers is an invaluable resource for employers and employees. We offer exceptional and responsive service to help our clients avoid exposure to unnecessary legal risk and potential disputes.
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