Suncor Drug Testing Denied: Workers Have Rights
In late March of this year, the major oil sands developer, Suncor Energy lost a legal proceeding to randomly subject workers to drug and alcohol tests. An Alberta Court of Appeal judge sent the case to arbitration.
The recent panel ruling was made over the court decisions of 2012 that granted the union an injunction against the Suncor policy. After the injunction was granted, the courts ruled against the company’s appeal of the injunction.
The court-ordered arbitration panel determined the random tests violated the employees rights. Unifor, the union that represents 3,600 workers in the Fort McMurray area had filed a grievance against the Suncor policy.
Head of Unifor Local 707a union, Roland Lefort, “hailed the ruling.” Stating, the policy would have violated workers’ fundamental rights to privacy, respect and dignity in the workplace.
The random testing overstepped the authority of an employer. Suncor already had the ability to test job applicants and employees suspected of being impaired for drugs and alcohol on the job site. As long as the employee shows up clean and safe to work, what happens outside of work hours will not impact their employment under the most recent decision.
The company also provides substance abuse counselling programs to help their employees make the right choice.
The 2 to 3 majority of the arbitration panel members ruled “there is no evidence that there is an out-of-control drinking or drug culture at Suncor.” Further to this, the ruling said “the random testing policy is an unreasonable exercise of Suncor’s management rights.” The panel was conflicted, however, with one panel member stating, he had “never seen stronger evidence in support of random drug and alcohol testing.”
The decision reads: “The 2012 policy is proposed without any time limits to review its effectiveness, is not targeted as narrowly as possible, does not use the least intrusive or most accurate testing measures available and does not contain provisions for communicating with employees around false-positive results”
Lefort said of the union, “We will work with Suncor to achieve the highest levels of workplace safety with education and prevention, not invasive medical procedures.”
In a similar case, that attracted a number of interveners (manufacturers and mining associations), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that an employers must prove that random alcohol testing on union workers, in a dangerous work environment, is required.
Regardless, a Suncor spokesperson said the company was disappointed in the decision and stated it will apply to the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench for a judicial review of the ruling.
If your employment was terminated because of random drug testing and you feel your employer acted in bad faith, you may have reason to pursue legal action. Contact the employment lawyers at Lypkie Henderson, barrister, solicitor, and notary, in Edmonton to discuss your options.