Canada: Employee's Failure To Disclose Medical Marijuana Use A Factor In Establishing Just Cause For Dismissal

Last Updated: November 3 2016
Article by Janna L. Whelan

A recent labour arbitration decision out of Newfoundland and Labrador considers the obligation of employees to disclose medical marijuana use in safety-sensitive workplaces.

Facts

In International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 1620 v Lower Churchill Transmission Construction Employers' Assn. Inc. (Uprichard Grievance), [2016] NLLAA No 5, the Union grieved the dismissal of an Assembler employed by Valard Construction ("Valard"), alleging discrimination by Valard on the grounds of disability, contrary to the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act. Valard, a contractor involved in the Lower Churchill Transmission Project, hired the Grievor to work as an Assembler on the construction of the transmission line and provided on-site accommodations for the Grievor during his 21-day rotations.

Prior to commencing employment with Valard, the Grievor was prescribed medical marijuana to provide him relief from anxiety and chronic pain. The Grievor passed a pre-employment drug and alcohol test by abstaining from marijuana for two weeks prior to the test, but resumed his consumption of marijuana immediately after. During his pre-employment orientation, the Grievor read and signed the Valard Construction LP Health and Safety Handbook (the "Valard Handbook"), which required employees to report the use of any medication which could impair their ability to work safely. He also completed and signed a Medical Questionnaire, but deliberately left a question on taking medication that may have side effects blank. After commencing employment with Valard, the Grievor smoked marijuana at the worksite almost daily during his 21-day rotations. When he arrived at the worksite at the beginning of each rotation, the Grievor would bring his medical marijuana to his dormitory room before hiding it in a ditch adjacent to a nearby highway for the remainder of the rotation.

The Grievor was dismissed after Valard's Safety Advisor, Mr. Groves ("Groves"), smelled marijuana inside a pick-up truck that the Grievor was using on site. When confronted by Groves, the Grievor denied smoking marijuana at work, but acknowledged that he would not pass a drug test. Groves later learned that the Grievor had a prescription for medical marijuana and used marijuana during his work rotations. In the Grievor's termination letter, Valard indicated its basis for termination was the Grievor's violation of the Nalcor Energy Lower Churchill Project Drug and Alcohol Standard (the "LCP Standard"), including his failure to disclose his medical marijuana prescription and his possession and use of marijuana at the worksite.

The Lower Churchill Project Handbook ("LCP Handbook"), which applied to all employees working on the Lower Churchill Transmission Project, set out a number of safety absolutes, violation of which would lead to denial or revocation of site access and termination of employment unless exceptional mitigating circumstances were established. One such safety absolute was non-compliance with the LCP Standard.

Decision

Arbitrator James Oakley found that Valard had just cause to terminate the Grievor's employment. The LCP Standard required that Valard employees comply with the LCP Standard, the Canadian Model for Providing a Safe Workplace, Alcohol and Drug Guidelines and Work Rule, Version 5.0 (the "Canadian Model") and the Valard Handbook. Arbitrator Oakley relied on evidence regarding the potential unsafe side effects of marijuana in finding that the Grievor violated the Valard Handbook and the Canadian Model, both of which required employees to report the use of any medication that may impair their ability to work safely. Arbitrator Oakley also found that the Grievor violated the Canadian Model by possessing drugs while on company property and at a company workplace. While exceptions were set out in the Canadian Model for the possession of prescription drugs that did not adversely affect an employee's ability to safely perform his or her duties and for employees who notified their supervisors of any potentially unsafe side effects associated with their use of prescription drugs, neither exception applied to the Grievor. Arbitrator Oakley further found that by violating the LCP Standard, the Canadian Model and the Valard Handbook, the Grievor violated a safety absolute for the project. As the Grievor had not established any exceptional mitigating circumstances, Arbitrator Oakley held that Valard had just cause to terminate the Grievor's employment. 

Arbitrator Oakley then considered whether the Grievor had been discriminated against on the grounds of disability, noting that Valard's failure to allow the Grievor to work due to his use of medical marijuana could be considered prima facie discrimination contrary to section 14(1) of the Human Rights Act. Arbitrator Oakley continued on to find that Valard's implementation of the LCP Standard, the Canadian Model and the Valard Handbook satisfied the three-part Meiorin test to establish a good faith occupational qualification within the meaning of section 14(2) of the Human Rights Act. As such, Arbitrator Oakley held that the discipline imposed by Valard as a result of the Grievor's violation of the LCP Standard did not constitute a violation of the Human Rights Act.

Lesson For Employers

An employee's failure to disclose a medical marijuana prescription could constitute just cause for dismissal, particularly if he or she is employed in a safety-sensitive workplace and fails to comply with a drug and alcohol policy that requires employees to disclose their use of any medications with potentially unsafe side effects. While employers have legal obligations under human rights legislation to accommodate medical marijuana users, refusing to allow an employee to work due to medical marijuana use may not constitute discrimination on the grounds of disability if the employer's drug and alcohol policy is found to comprise a good faith occupational qualification.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions