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Impairment, Drug Testing, Fitness for Work, Safety

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3: A comprehensive workshop on drug and alcohol testing

Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace has long been a contentious issue, impacting employee privacy rights and employers' need to maintain a safe workplace. It also raises a host of practical questions – how reliable are different forms of testing? When does off the job, recreational drug use pose a danger in a safety-sensitive workplace? In this session, Lancaster's experts will demystify workplace drug and alcohol use, and provide a step-by-step guide to responding when an employee tests positive. Topics to be discussed include:

  • Understanding diagnoses and treatment: What are the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder? Is it always experienced as a chronic, progressive and/or relapsing disorder? Is prolonged specialist treatment and medical monitoring appropriate for all employees with substance use disorders? Is non-abstinent recovery possible? How effective are inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs in promoting lasting recovery?
  • Demystifying drugs and alcohol in the workplace: What is the workplace impact of off the job substance abuse? Are there lasting effects from recreational drug use, such as marijuana?
  • Recognizing and inquiring about substance use disorders: What job performance and workplace behaviours may be warning signs of a potential substance abuse or dependency issue? What are some best practices for approaching an employee who appears to be struggling with a substance use disorder?
  • Exploring the science and limits of testing: Does alcohol testing stand on a different footing than drug testing? Why? Can drug and alcohol testing technology provide an immediate detection of impairment? What technology is usually used for drug tests? How reliable is urinalysis? Are hair or saliva tests less invasive or more effective alternatives to urinalysis?
  • Managing safety risks: What is the best way to manage safety risks arising from the use or abuse of drugs and alcohol at work? Is drug testing an effective way to control such risks? What other measures, training, policies or programs might be more effective?
  • Reviewing the law on drug and alcohol testing: What is the legal status of random drug and alcohol testing in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2013 ruling in the Irving Pulp & Paper case? What kind of evidence is required to show a workplace problem with alcohol or drugs which could warrant random testing? When can drug testing be done as a condition of employment, promotion, or transfer? Can a third-party site owner require drug or alcohol testing as a precondition for allowing workers employed by contractors or sub-contractors on site? What constitutes reasonable cause for testing? In what circumstances will post-incident testing be justified? Is an accident or "near miss" enough, or must there also be some reason to believe that drugs or alcohol were a factor? When will testing be justified in a return-to-work situation?
  • Responding to positive test results, accommodating employees with disabilities: What steps should be taken by the employer and union when an employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol following a workplace accident? What about when an employee fails a random drug or alcohol test? Should the employee be suspended automatically? If so, should this be with or without pay? Should an employee who tests positive for drugs or alcohol be required to attend a rehabilitation program? What if the employee denies having a substance use disorder? Can employees rely on claims that testing and related measures amount to disability-based discrimination, in order to challenge drug and alcohol policies? What should be done if an employee refuses to submit to random or post-incident drug/alcohol testing?



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.