Employer did not Discriminate against Cocaine Addict Who was Dismissed for Cause

June 15, 2017

The Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that an employer may terminate a worker for just cause when he violated a Fitness for Duty Policy by attending work under the influence of drugs.
In a landmark human rights decision the Supreme Court ultimately upheld the ruling of the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal that the employer did not unlawfully discriminate when a worker's employment was terminated.

The matter required the tribunal to decide whether or not the employer had violated s. 7 of the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act in terminating the employee. It was ultimately decided that the employer terminated the employee for not adhering to their Fitness for Duty Policy, and was not in violation of the Act. The Supreme Court agreed with this decision based on ample evidence.

This decision has important implications for employers in at least three areas:

  1. The importance of having a well drafted Fitness for Duty Policy;
  2. The need for a proper Alcohol & Drug Testing Policy in place in dangerous workplaces;
  3. The need to get legal advice before deciding to terminate workers for substance use.

Fasken Martineau was counsel to three intervenors in Elk Valley Coal with a team led by Norm Keith.