“Drug abuse” diagnoses justifies random testing requirement

Last November 29th, Arbitrator Hall held that an employer could impose random drug testing on a employee in a safety-sensitive position who admitted to regular cannabis use outside of the workplace and who had been diagnosed as a “drug abuser” but not “drug dependent.” He explained:

…a closer review of the authorities reveals that arbitrators have distinguished between “use”, “abuse”, and “dependence/addiction”. Once the distinction between use and abuse in particular is recognized, the Union’s comparison to the casual consumption of alcohol away from the workplace is no longer compelling. The distinction was made in Hamilton Street Railway in these terms: “Use does not equate to abuse and it does not follow that because the grievor may use infrequently he will one day arrive at work impaired” (para. 33; emphasis added).

Although he upheld the random testing requirement, Arbitrator Hall ordered the employer to reduce testing frequency to quarterly from monthly and to limit testing to cannabis.

Spectra Energy Transmission – West and Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 686b (29 November 2012, Hall).

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