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It's Legal, Now What?: Practical advice on cannabis impairment, fitness for duty and safety concerns

Thursday, November 29, 2018, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EST

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Jon Chapnick

Director of Human Resources and Labour Relations
RainCity Housing
Anne Gregory

Legal Counsel
Manitoba Nurses Union


Dr. Scot Purdon

Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry
University of Alberta
Wayne Jeffery

Forensic Toxicologist

Lindsay Waddell

Union Counsel
Moore Edgar Lyster
P.A. Neena Gupta

Employer Counsel
Gowling WLG


Ready or not, legalized cannabis is here. While there's no shortage of news reports detailing the countless new government regulations that have been passed and the potential wide-ranging impacts of legalization on everything from impaired driving to the stock market, there's little practical advice available for employers and unions seeking to maintain workplace safety and productivity in an era where cannabis can be purchased and consumed as easily as alcohol and tobacco.

In this session, our experts will help you put theory into practice, discussing the signs and symptoms of impairment, how to successfully implement fitness for duty policies, the hallmarks of safety-sensitive positions, and the impact of such a finding on the ability to administer drug tests. Issues to be addressed include:

  • Assessing impairment: Given the lack of scientific consensus on the threshold level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) that will cause impairment, and the different effects that the substance has on each individual, how do you define "impairment?" What signs or symptoms might indicate cannabis impairment? Are there any observable behaviours that supervisors and coworkers should look for if they suspect that a worker is impaired by cannabis? How, if at all, does impairment from cannabis differ from impairment by other causes such as fatigue, alcohol, prescription medications or other substances? How should employers and unions respond when they suspect that an employee is exhibiting signs of impairment?
  • Fitness for duty policies: Should employers consider adopting a general fitness for duty standard that could also address impairment effects from fatigue, alcohol, prescription drugs, etc., or is it easier to administer a bright-line policy requiring that an employee abstain from consuming cannabis either completely or for a specified time period before reporting for work? To what extent will arbitrators and courts uphold policies restricting cannabis consumption during off-duty hours? Are they likely to uphold policies that require complete abstinence from cannabis use during off-duty hours, or for prolonged periods before an employee has to report to work?
  • Implementing workplace policies: What training must be provided to employees to ensure that they understand the fitness for duty policy and can reasonably assess whether they are fit for work? What about training for supervisors or front-line managers who will be responsible for enforcing the policy? Should training for employees and/or managers include education on impairing substances? Are there concerns that a policy that relies on subjective impressions of impairment could be vulnerable to challenge for being selectively applied based on favouritism or discriminatory grounds? What measures can employers put in place to guard against such concerns? What are some examples of appropriate responses if an employee reports that he or she is not fit for duty, bearing in mind that an overly onerous disciplinary response will discourage self-disclosure?
  • Safety-sensitive positions: What is the significance of a finding that a workplace or position is a safety-sensitive one? How have arbitrators and courts defined safety-sensitive positions? Can a position be safety-sensitive if an employee only occasionally performs such duties? Are there any types of drug tests that can be administered to employees who do not perform safety-sensitive work? What additional tests can an employer administer when the position or workplace is deemed to be safety-sensitive? (i.e. pre-employment, random, etc.)

Additional Information

Valuable, up-to-date materials and case summaries will be available for downloading from our website. Each audio conference is accompanied by a PDF of concise summaries of the cases discussed.

Audio conference MP3 files are available for $255. Those who have purchased the live audio conference may purchase the corresponding downloadable audio MP3 file for the discounted price of $155.

The recorded MP3 file and materials are available for download one business day after the live audio conference. After purchasing, you will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to access and download the audio conference MP3 file and materials by visiting My Account and selecting Order History. For audio file purchases for upcoming audio conferences, once the MP3 file is available through our site, registrants will receive an update e-mail informing them that the links are now ready.

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