Newsbrief: Canada Just Says No to Workplace Drug Testing 7/12/02

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Random workplace drug and alcohol testing and pre-employment drug screens are a violation of human rights, the Canadian Human Rights Commission ruled Wednesday. According to the commission's newly articulated policy on workplace drug testing, drug and alcohol dependence are disabilities, and workers suffering from those problems must be helped, not fired, by their employers.

"Employers, with very, very few exceptions, should not be testing employees, or candidates for employment, for drugs," the commission's Catherine Barratt told the London (Ontario) Free Press. If employers want to know what drugs workers are using on their off hours, that means they "perceive the use of those substances is going to disable them from doing their job on Monday, and that's forbidden -- that's against the law," Barratt explained.

There are exceptions to the general rule, said Barratt. Employers can test for impairment for workers in safety-sensitive jobs, but only with "strong reasonable cause," such as the occurrence of an accident, she said. Even then, if a test comes back positive, the employer must "accommodate the needs" of the worker, including providing counseling, medical testing or even reassignment to a less safety-sensitive position.

"There needs to be support and rehabilitation and treatment that goes along with... reassigning them temporarily to a position that is not safety-sensitive," Barratt said.

The new rules apply to workers in all of Canada's federally regulated industries and could also serve as guidelines for small companies not covered by federal regulations. The rules come in the wake of a series of Canadian Supreme Court and provincial court decisions limiting drug testing in the late 1990s. The Canadian position stands in stark contrast to US practice, under which private employers often test employees or prospective employees on a whim and fire them if they test positive.

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Issue #245, 7/12/02 Editorial: What People Are Thinking | British Cannabis Decrim: One Step Forward, One Step Sideways, One Step Back | US Drug War: Trouble Down South America Way | Motorist Flexing Rights Doesn't Sit Well With NC Cops -- Man Arrested, Lawsuit Pending | DC Medical Marijuana Initiative Will Be on November Ballot -- Unless Congress Quashes It Again | Newsbrief: Nevada Marijuana Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot | Newsbrief: Federal Jury Convicts in California Medical Marijuana Case | Newsbrief: New Jersey Weedman Strikes Again | Newsbrief: Kid Turned in Dad's Pot Grow, Did "Right Thing" -- or Did He? | Newsbrief: Canada Just Says No to Workplace Drug Testing | The Reformer's Calendar

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