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Supreme Court says Irving pulp mill's random testing policy has 'severe' impact on privacy
The Supreme Court of Canada has overturned a company's right to impose mandatory, random alcohol testing on its unionized workers in a dangerous workplace.
In a 6-3 decision released on Friday, the court ruled the policy unilaterally adopted by Irving Pulp and Paper Ltd. in Saint John in 2006 for employees in safety sensitive positions is unreasonable.
The Supreme Court of Canada says random alcohol testing by an employer is only justified in certain circumstances.The Supreme Court of Canada says random alcohol testing by an employer is only justified in certain circumstances. (Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
A dangerous workplace is not automatic justification for random testing, the court ruled in the case, which dealt narrowly with unionized workers and management's ability to balance privacy rights with the need for safety in dangerous workplaces.
The decision says dangerousness of a workplace only justifies testing particular employees in certain circumstances:
Where there are reasonable grounds to believe an employee was impaired while on duty.
Where an employee was directly involved in a workplace accident or significant incident.
Where the employee returns to work after treatment for substance abuse.
"It has never, to my knowledge, been held to justify random testing, even in the case of 'highly safety sensitive' or 'inherently dangerous' workplaces like railways (Canadian National) and chemical plants (DuPont Canada Inc. and C.E.P., Loc. 28-0 (Re)(2002), 105 L.A.C. (4th) 399), or even in workplaces that pose a risk of explosion (ADM Agri-Industries), in the absence of a demonstrated problem with alcohol use in that workplace."