CN AB: Judge Rules For Man Fired After Smoking Pot
by Sarah O'Donnell, (29 Jun 2006) Calgary Herald Alberta
An Alberta judge has ruled a construction company discriminated against a man when it fired him from an oilsands project after his pre-employment drug screening tested positive for marijuana.
Instead, Justice Sheilah Martin said the man -- a recreational user -- should have been treated the same way as someone with a drug addiction, which is considered a disability in a growing body of human rights case law across Canada.
In 2002, John Chiasson was hired by Kellogg, Brown & Root as a receiving inspector at Syncrude's plant north of Fort McMurray. He was required to take and pass a pre-employment drug test.
It is the first time that Alberta's Court of Queen's bench has addressed pre-employment drug testing under Alberta human rights legislation. And while the judgment is specific to one company's policy, some are calling it a significant decision that could place new legal limits on when workers can be tested for drugs.
Leanne Chahley, an Edmonton labour lawyer who regularly represents unions, said it means a worker does not have to be disabled to challenge a policy as discriminatory. It also means companies cannot use drug tests to automatically weed out potential employees who test positive, she said.
Companies that require employees to drug test before setting foot in the workplace say they do so for important safety reasons.
KBR argued that drug testing was "a necessary facet of a wider drug and alcohol strategy to counter the danger of the growing drug culture in Fort McMurray."