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Substance Use Disorders: Recognition and accommodation in the era of legalized cannabis

Thursday, April 25, 2019, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EDT

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David Yazbeck

Union Counsel
Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne & Yazbeck
Madeleine Loewenberg

Employment Counsel
Loewenberg Psarris Workplace Law


Dr. David Martell

Family and Addiction Medicine Physician

Jamie Jurczak

Employer Counsel
Taylor McCaffrey
Megan Reid

Union Counsel
Dewart Gleason


The legalization of recreational cannabis use has prompted employers across Canada to review the way they deal with substance use that affects – or may affect – the workplace. However, a recent report from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction notes that, while almost all workplace substance use policies appear to incorporate disciplinary responses, many fail to provide for appropriate support and accommodation of employees. In this session, an expert on substance use disorders will join experienced labour lawyers to provide guidance on developing accommodations and accommodation procedures that comply with human rights legislation, respect employee privacy, promote workplace safety, and provide employees with the support they need.

  • What is the difference between recreational drug or alcohol use and problematic use that constitutes a disorder? When does medical use of a substance – opioids, for example – become a substance use disorder?
  • Do people become "addicted" to cannabis in the same way they become addicted to alcohol and other drugs? Is there any medical consensus on safe cannabis use? For example, are there guidelines for cannabis use similar to Canada's Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines?
  • Following the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in Elk Valley, can workplace policies place the onus on employees to disclose all drug and/or alcohol use? Does having a policy mandating the disclosure of substance use disorders relieve the employer of the duty to inquire found in human rights law?
  • What is the appropriate response to an employee who discloses a substance use disorder but who has not shown signs of being impaired or having difficulty at work?
  • What job performance and workplace behaviours may be warning signs of a substance use disorder? What are some best practices for approaching an employee who exhibits signs of having a substance use disorder?
  • What should be done if the employee denies having a problem, even though other signs point to possible dependency? Is denial an inherent part of a substance use disorder?
  • If an employer suspects that an employee has a substance use disorder, can the employer require the employee to provide medical evidence that he or she is fit for work? If so, what type of evidence would be appropriate?
  • In general, what is the scope of the duty to accommodate an employee with a substance use disorder and what are the best practices in providing accommodation that meets or exceeds the legal standard? Should an employer require an employee to engage in treatment for a substance use disorder as part of the accommodation process? Can the employer specify the type of treatment?
  • In cases of drug- or alcohol-related misconduct, what is the difference between the "disciplinary" model, the "therapeutic" model, and the "hybrid" model? Has Elk Valley altered the manner of assessing whether workplace misconduct is causally connected to a disability?
  • Are last chance agreements enforceable if the employee in question has a substance use disorder? What are the alternatives to a last chance agreement?

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 $260. Those who have purchased the live audio conference may purchase the corresponding downloadable audio MP3 file for the discounted price of $160.

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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