The issue of random alcohol and drug testing in the workplace
has reared its head in Alberta again.
Earlier this year, Suncor decided to implement a new alcohol and
drug policy that includes random testing for safety sensitive
employees. The policy was to take effect on October 15, 2012 for
Suncor employees and January 1, 2013 for contractors.
Approximately 85% of Suncor employees working in safety
sensitive positions are union members, and the union filed a
grievance about the policy. The union also obtained an injunction
preventing Suncor from implementing the policy pending
On appeal, a majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal upheld the
injunction. The Court of Appeal released its written reasons this
morning, which can be found here.
The majority found that the non-consensual taking of bodily
fluids is a "substantial affront to an individual's
privacy rights." The majority also found that Suncor had not
presented sufficient evidence to justify the need for random
testing pending arbitration.
The sole dissenting judge strongly disagreed. Justice Cote was
of the view that "privately giving a urine sample to be tested
for alcohol or drugs does not begin to equal death or
dismemberment, or widowhood or becoming orphaned, by an
accident." He also found that the various other potential
risks resulting from substance impairment outweighed any possible
In light of the decision, Suncor has suspended the requirement
that its contractors implement random testing.
The arbitration hearing starts on December 10, while on December
7, the Supreme Court of Canada is scheduled to hear argument in the
Irving Oil case involving random alcohol testing. The resulting
decisions will have significant implications for alcohol and drug
testing in Alberta and across Canada.
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