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Impairment, Drug Testing, Fitness for Work, Safety

Taking Safety Seriously: Managing the risks of marijuana, opioids, and other drugs in the workplace

Recent news headlines highlight the prevalence of medicinal and recreational drug use in Canada. This trend, in conjunction with the federal government's pledge to legalize the use of marijuana for recreational purposes, has prompted many workplace parties to re-examine their approach to prescription and recreational drug use at work. In this workshop, medical and legal experts will discuss best practices for managing the safety risks of marijuana, opioids and other drugs in the workplace while still respecting employee privacy and human rights. Workshop speakers will lead a practical discussion and interactive exercises on a range of issues relating to this topic, including:

  • Demystifying prescription drug use in the workplace: What are some of the common misperceptions surrounding the use of prescription drugs in the workplace? Does the medicinal use of marijuana and other drugs necessarily result in impairment at work? What else can cause impairment in the workplace? Fatigue? Chronic pain?
  • Disclosure: In what circumstances, if any, are employees required to disclose their use of medical marijuana and other prescription drugs to their employer? Can employees be required to disclose recreational use of marijuana or other drugs?
  • Drug use and the duty to accommodate: How does the duty to accommodate under Canadian human rights legislation apply in the context of an employee with a prescription for marijuana or other drugs? Does a medical prescription entitle an employee to be impaired at work? What type of medical information should be requested to determine whether an employee can safely and effectively perform his or her job? How does the duty to accommodate apply to employees with suspected or confirmed substance use disorders? What are some best practices for managing safety risks when substance abuse is suspected?
  • Impairment testing: What tests are available for employers to measure actual current impairment in the workplace? What advantages does competency-based testing have over traditional drug testing? What possible privacy and/or human rights concerns are raised by impairment testing in the workplace?
  • Reviewing the law on traditional drug testing: What is the legal status of random drug testing in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling in the Irving Pulp & Paper case? Has any random drug testing policy been found reasonable in Canada post-Irving? In what circumstances will for-cause or post-incident drug testing be permitted? When will testing be justified in a return-to-work situation?
  • Responding to test refusals and positive test results: What steps should be taken by the employer and union when an employee fails a for-cause, post-incident or random drug test? What about when an employee fails a competency-based test? What should be done if an employee refuses to submit to random, for-cause or post-incident drug testing, or to competency-based testing?
  • Drafting workplace policies: What elements should be included in a workplace policy dealing with the use of prescription drugs? What about the use of recreational drugs? How should impairment-based testing or traditional drug testing be treated in workplace policies? In what circumstances, if any, are zero-tolerance policies permissible?



E-mail Christine Winiker or call (416) 977-6618 for more information. We can help to tailor a Customized Training package for you.

Additional Information

Includes materials, with case summaries and analyses, prepared by Lancaster's legal staff.