On June 14, 2013, CCP released a
blog on the Supreme Court's decision in the matter of Communications, Energy and Paper Union of Canada,
Local 30 v Irving Pulp & Paper, Ltd. This decision examined
the reasonableness of a random drug and alcohol testing policy
instituted by an employer. A majority of the court determined that
an employer must demonstrate evidence of significant or serious
alcohol problems in the workplace and establish a causal link to an
increased safety risk before such a program/policy could be
On March 18, 2014 an arbitration decision was released between
Suncor Energy Inc. and UNIFOR Local 707A which
used the reasoning in Irving to quash a random drug and
alcohol testing policy. The policy identified approximately 82% of
employees' positions as 'safety sensitive' and
therefore eligible for testing. The selection was random, based on
a computer application but the frequency would result in
approximately 50% of employees being tested each year. The
Arbitration Board, chaired by Tom Hodges ultimately ruled that the
policy was an unreasonable exercise of the employer's
Arbitrator Hodges directly cited Irving, placing the
onus on the employer to establish that alcohol or drug use is a
serious problem in the workplace, and workplace safety will be
bolstered by the policy. The ruling found that the employer failed
to establish a 'serious' drug/alcohol issue within the
workforce, the privacy concerns with administering a Breathalyzer
test were not justified, and drug testing would not establish
current impairment. Therefore the policy was ruled to be
unreasonable and the grievance upheld.
The lawyers at CCP can assist employers in developing
enforceable drug and alcohol policies as well as navigate the
difficult issue of accommodation where drug and alcohol issues
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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