Battle Over Workplace Drug Tests Just Heating Up Following Court Ruling

More and more Canadians are being asked to prove, in the name of safety, that they are sober before clocking in at work. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its first ruling on this invasion of personal privacy and opened the discussion about when it can be allowed. The high bench confirmed that drug-and-alcohol testing is lawful only under certain circumstances and it gave unions a means by which to challenge some of these policies by demanding better evidence of an existing problem. The court said an employer must establish a substance-abuse problem in a safety-sensitive work environment before such random screening can occur. The unions maintain employers like drug-testing programs because they give the impression that something decisive is being done about safety, but they don’t work. “Privacy rights don’t trump the employers’ rights, but the court has placed a high value on them,” said Ritu Mahil, a lawyer at Lawson Lundell specializing in employment law. “Now labour arbitrators will have to interpret that and apply it. They will have to assess what constitutes sufficient evidence, where are the workplace safety concerns and how do they balance against privacy rights.”

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