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Can Employers Test For Pot?


420 Staff
They Can But May Face Challenges

Drug and alcohol testing programs can be implemented in workplaces in Canada -- and employees suspended or fired as a consequence of the results.

But Karen Izzard of the Canadian Human Rights Commission said Friday that employers who choose to do so face human-rights complaints or lawsuits.

Drug and alcohol testing has become an issue in the wake of concerns raised last week by the Transportation Safety Board that B.C. Ferries crew members on the ill-fated Queen of the North smoked marijuana between shifts.

Izzard, a lawyer and policy advisor with the commission, is now reviewing its 2002 policy on drug and alcohol testing.

"[An] employer could embark upon a drug-testing program that might involve random testing of employees. However, we would caution that employer that they might be risking a human-rights complaint being made against them, depending on what they do if someone tests positive."

Izzard confirmed there is mandatory testing of some employees in Canada, but because of confidentiality could not identify their employers.

Linda O'Connor, communications manager for the Ministry of Labor and Citizen Services, said the Employment Standards Act does not govern an employer in setting its personnel policy.

"If they want to administer a drug test, they can," said O'Connor.

If a drug test is positive and the employee is terminated, they can file a civil action suit or a complaint with the Employment Standards Branch, which falls under Labor and Citizen Service. Under the Employment Standards Act, the maximum severance that employee could get is eight weeks salary.

Drug and alcohol testing is done with either blood or urine samples. Blood samples are more immediate but more complicated than peeing into a sample bottle.

Another problem with urine is that it may be in the body longer, thus diluting the active nature of the drug being tested.

The Canadian Charter does not clarify the situation.

But drug and alcohol testing is becoming more common.

Canadian truckers going to the U.S., for example, are part of a random testing program because American regulations require such testing. Anyone failing is subject to a suspension but there is an appeal process and drivers can earn their status back.

Amd the Construction Labour Relations Association of B.C. is working with its 16 unions on a consensual agreement, according to association spokesman Clyde Scollan.

Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 The Province
Contact: provletters@png.canwest.com
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