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Drug Testing Pits Privacy Against Safety

Cases involving employer drug testing and employee privacy are set for hearings in two Canadian courts. First, the Alberta Court of Appeal will hear from an energy company that is arguing against an injunction preventing the company from implementing random drug testing of employees. The Supreme Court of Canada will then hear a case involving a company’s plans to have employees submit to mandatory breathalyzer tests. Unlike the United States, where workplace drug tests are relatively common, Canada has had little experience with randomly administered on-the-job tests. Both companies argue the testing improves job safety, but others argue it infringes on employees’ right to privacy. Ed Secondiak, president of ECS Services – which has designed drug testing programs for large and small corporations for 18 years – says there are ways to ensure employees’ rights are respected while still reducing the risk of on-the-job substance abuse. Employers, safety companies and privacy experts, will watch each case closely as the courts try to find a balance between safety on the job and an individual’s right to privacy.

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