Do You Need A Drug Test Before Employment?

You’ve received an offer to work in Canada. Do you need a standard drug test before employment?

Workplace drug and alcohol use is a concern in Canada, especially when it comes to safety-sensitive industries like resource extraction and heavy manufacturing. Nearly 40% of all industrial injuries and fatalities are linked to substance or alcohol use. Drug and alcohol testing can help to reduce on-the-job accidents and promote a safe and healthy workplace.

However, the law in Canada sets strict guidelines for when employers can subject their workers to drug and alcohol tests. Addiction issues are a disability under human rights laws, and the Supreme Court of Canada has found that urine, blood, and breath sample tests are highly intrusive on an individual’s privacy.

The 2014 case of Mechanical Contractors Assn. Sarnia v. United Assn. of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing & Pipefitting Industry provides insight on when employers conduct a pre-employment drug screen on potential hires.

Case Background

Workers of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Sarnia performed work for various Suncor Energy Inc. sites in the Sarnia/Lambton area. Suncor put in place a directive requiring all its contractors to comply with a “Contractor Alcohol and Drug Standard”, which required universal mandatory alcohol and drug testing before any worker could access its sites. The union representing these workers filed a grievance against the Association.

The issue first went to arbitration. The arbitrator, George T. Surdykowski, declared the policy as contrary to the union’s collective bargaining agreement and s.5(1) of the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Surdykowski based his decision on a 2013 Supreme Court case called Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 30 v Irving Pulp & Paper Ltd. In this case, the court ruled that a dangerous workplace did not automatically justify an employer to conduct random drug and alcohol testing on its employees. It must also provide evidence of enhanced safety risks, like a general problem with substance abuse in the workplace. This consideration is also weighed against the employees’ privacy.

The Association filed a motion to have the decision quashed by the Ontario Court of Justice.

Outcome

The Ontario Court of Justice upheld the arbitrator’s decision, giving the following reasons:

  • Though not being under the influence of drugs was a real or bona fide requirement of the job, the pre-employment screen wasn’t necessary to ensure employees would not be impaired at work
  • A positive pre-employment drug test is not a valid indicator that the person will be impaired at work
  • The Association could not prove there was evidence of a substance abuse problem at any specific work site

Closing Thoughts

The current law is that requirements for pre-employment drug testing in Canada are the same as random drug testing. To test employees (or potential employees) for drug and alcohol use, and employer must show:

  • Not being impaired is a genuine, bona fide requirement of the job;
  • There is evidence of an enhanced safety risk in the workplace; and
  • The risk creates a significant risk of negative workplace health and safety events.

Note that this does not extend to drug and alcohol testing following a safety incident or based on an employee’s behaviour, for which there are other requirements.

Should You Be Allowed to Obscure Your Identity Online?

People do all kinds of different things on the internet and, in some cases, they are also all kinds of different people. Facebook has a strict policy that you must create an account under your real name in order to use the site, while Twitter does not. In general, most websites allow you to enter whatever name you like and people take advantage of that.

For example, they may be participating in a political forum and espousing their liberal views. Using a pseudonym allows that individual to remain protected, theoretically, and that might prevent them from getting in trouble with a conservative boss at work. Or someone who is thinking of coming out, might seek information from an LBGTQ forum where their identity can remain a secret until they decide they are ready to share their sexual orientation with the world.

These examples are fine, though it must be pointed out that many people abuse the privilege of online anonymity. Some do this for malicious purposes, such as trolling or other forms of harassment. Others do it to indulge in illegal activity, such as downloading pirated movies and TV shows, or other more serious criminal pursuits. You don’t have to be tech savvy to disguise yourself online either: video private networks (VPNs) are subscription services that provide users with the option of IP addresses in multiple countries. Want to watch something on the BBC iPlayer, but don’t live in England? Simply click on a UK IP address provided by your VPN and the BBC does not know the difference.

Governments and corporations take a dim view of such activity. Russia and China announced that VPNs will be banned in those countries by the end of the year. This is unfortunate because it will rob citizens of the chance to speak openly and potentially criticize those authoritarian governments. But, of course, that is just the sort of openness they seek to oppress.

Writing About Lifestyle Pieces

I started a blog back when I was high school and actually kept it going for quite a long time.  I think it was after about a  year when I lagged off on posts and slowly stopped writing.  Not sure why that happened – probably just grew out of it.  When I decided to start this blog, I didn’t want to put any pressure on myself.  Sure, I loved to write, but I also didn’t want to promise my readers anything that I couldn’t deliver.  I usually only have a craving to write when I’m doing something fun or wanted to talk about an event or show.  I knew that sometimes I would get writer’s block, so I quickly did some research on online journal prompts for those days where I might have nothing to write about.  Turns out, these prompts actually help out a lot and really gives me interesting things to talk about.

ssMy favorite posts that I like to write about are either about an event that I went to where I had tons of fun or fashion.  Those are basically my two favorite passions in life.  When I’m talking about fashion, I never need writing prompts for my journal because I always have something to say.  On the other hand, when my week is not too busy or packed with events to go to, I need that extra push from a prompt, so I can squeeze in an extra post for the week.

Most of the events I go to are related to fashion or beauty.  The PR company I work for mainly does fashion and beauty, but we sometimes also throw huge parties for special occasions.  Those are super fun because often there are celebrities and the next day, there’s always news written in the gossip columns.

I had mentioned in my previous post that I also take photography to include into some of my posts.  I’m always out and about hunting for interesting and original street style.  Those also make really good blogging material.  I’ve encountered many fashionistas on the street all with their own sense of style.  Blogging about these individuals has also helped inspire my own sense of style.

So that’s it for my ramble of the day.  I hope you come back to view more of my posts and I’ll try to put some of my photography up in the Style category!

My Life, In Pictures And Words

I’m not the most creative person when it comes to art or drawing or anything like that, but I do like to dabble in photography and writing from time to time.  I’ve started this blog to basically document my life through photos and words.  Sorry in advance for occasionally getting writer’s block and not being able to produce posts.

I work in PR so pretty much on any given night, I’ll be out at an event somewhere or working an event.  Usually I’ll bring my camera, and when I get some free time (or on break), I’ll casually wander around and take photos of my night.  I’ll post them on here so you guys can follow me on my nights out!

music

I’m also an avid festival goer.  I’m a big fan of all music (minus country), so I’m always festival hopping.  This summer, I’ll be going to at least 5 prominent music festivals, so I will also blog about that!  There goes my July and August weekends…

Hopefully this blog will keep you guys entertained.  Not going to lie, but I lead a pretty entertaining lifestyle.  If I ever have writer’s block or something, I’ll make sure to ramble on about nothing. 🙂