Supreme Court Rules on Drug-Related Dismissal

Author:Yosie Saint-Cyr
Date:June 29, 2017

On June 15, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal in a case involving an Alberta worker who was fired by a mining company after testing positive for drug use. In an 8–1 ruling, the court said the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal was right to conclude that the man was fired for breaching the company’s drug policy, not because of his addiction. Moreover, the Supreme Court of Canada found the employer didn’t fire the employee for the addiction to drugs, but for breaching the employer’s drug policy to self‐report his drug use.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said that while the employee may have been in denial about his addiction, he knew he should not have taken drugs before work and had the capacity to disclose his drug use to his employer.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Clement Gascon said the employee, Ian Stewart, was terminated for giving in to his drug dependence and did not receive reasonable accommodation from the company.

We previously wrote about this case and you can read an in-depth case commentary here.

What does this mean for employers?

Supreme Court of Canada judgements usually create precedence, meaning that the legal principle coming out of this case can be applied across Canada, not just in Alberta.

Also, the case shows us that having a solid and reasonable alcohol and drug policy that achieves the goal it sets out to achieve while simultaneously respecting the human rights of employees is more likely to be found to be acceptable and not a human...

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