Casual pot use a disability, Alberta judge finds Human rights legislation cited
EDMONTON - An Alberta judge has ruled that a construction company discriminated against a man when it fired him from an oilsands project after his pre-employment drug screening tested positive for marijuana.
Instead, Justice Sheilah Martin said the man -- a recreational user -- should have been treated the same way as someone with a drug addiction, which is considered a disability in a growing body of human rights case law across Canada.
It is the first time that Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench has addressed the issue of pre-employment drug testing under the province's human rights legislation.
And while the judgment is specific to one company's policy, some are calling it a significant decision.
The decision could place new legal limits on when workers can be tested for drugs.
"It is important for all workers," said Leanne Chahley, an Edmonton labour lawyer who regularly represents unions.
For one, she said, it means that a worker does not have to be disabled to challenge a policy as discriminatory. It also means that companies cannot use drug tests as a tool to automatically weed out potential employees who test positive, she said.
"No one wants to encourage impairment at work, but a drug test is an invasion of your privacy," Ms. Chahley said.
Judge Martin also said that the fact that KBR allowed Mr. Chiasson to work before receiving the results of the drug test called into question both the claim that such testing was essential and that he worked in a safety sensitive position.
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