Supreme Court Protects Workers’ Privacy Rights

The Supreme Court has ruled that companies cannot institute mandatory random alcohol testing of employees. “Random alcohol testing is a humiliating invasion of an individual’s privacy that has no proven impact on workplace safety,” said Dave Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers Union of Canada. In 2006, Irving Pulp and Paper Limited in Saint John, N.B., unilaterally adopted a policy of mandatory random alcohol testing for employees in safety sensitive positions. CEP Local 30 filed a grievance challenging the policy after a worker was chosen randomly by a computer program to take a breathalyzer test. The test showed a blood alcohol level of zero but the worker said the test was humiliating and unfair. “Our union’s long-standing position is that the best way to resolve social problems such as alcohol or drug abuse is to address the root cause of the problem”, said Coles. “Rather than attack the victim, Corporate Canada needs to do a better job in offering employee assistance programs, drug education and health promotion programs.”

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