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Substance Use and the Workplace Staying up to date on testing, accommodation, return-to-work conditions, and discharge

Thursday, August 19, 2021, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EDT

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Colin Johnston



Aminah Hanif

Union Counsel
Cavalluzzo LLP
Kris Noonan

Employer Counsel
Stikeman Elliott LLP


While substance use is a perennial concern for workplace parties, use of alcohol, cannabis, prescription medications, and illicit substances has increased significantly during the pandemic, as Canadians cope with mental health challenges and social isolation. In this webinar, experienced advocates will discuss recent cases on drug and alcohol testing, fitness-for-duty assessments, suitable accommodations, and disciplinary sanctions, addressing such issues as the following:

  • What constitutes reasonable cause to justify alcohol and drug testing? Without other evidence, does the fact that a worker smells of alcohol or cannabis provide sufficient grounds to administer a reasonable cause test? If not, what else is required to justify such a test?
  • What do recent decisions tell us about the circumstances required to justify post-incident testing? What qualifies as a "significant" incident that would be sufficiently serious to warrant an invasive drug or alcohol test? How does this analysis apply in the case of a near-miss incident?
  • What must an employer demonstrate aside from the risk of residual impairment in order to establish that accommodation in a safety-sensitive position or workplace would constitute undue hardship? Do recent cases provide guidance on how to conduct an individualized assessment in order to determine whether an employee is fit for duty?
  • To what extent will an employer be required to accommodate an employee who fails to disclose or denies having an issue with substance use? Where do recent cases draw the line on accommodating relapses, ruling that any further obligation to tolerate relapses would amount to undue hardship?
  • What are some recent examples of treatment or monitoring mechanisms that have been found to be excessively intrusive or violations of privacy rights?
  • On what grounds have arbitrators recently overturned last-chance agreements, ruling that a violation of their terms is not sufficient to establish undue hardship?
  • What factors do adjudicators consider when determining the appropriate disciplinary penalty for violations of workplace drug and alcohol policies? When will an employer be justified in disciplining or dismissing an employee or refusing to allow an employee to return to the workplace?

Additional Information

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

Webinar video and MP3 files are available for $265. Those who have purchased the live webinar may purchase the corresponding downloadable video and MP3 file for the discounted price of $165.

The video recording, MP3 file, and materials are available for download and viewing one business day after the live webinar. After purchasing, you will receive an e-mail with instructions on how to access and download the video recording, MP3 file, and materials by visiting My Account and selecting Order History. For purchases for upcoming webinars, once the video recording and MP3 file and materials are available, registrants will receive an update e-mail informing them that the links are now ready.

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