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Case Study: Stewart v Elk Valley Coal Corp 2017
Case Study: Stewart v Elk Valley Coal Corp 2017

Case Study: Stewart v Elk Valley Coal Corp 2017

Blog and Opinions Red Slashes Oct 24, 2017
By: Dan Demers

This case was a significant supreme court decision in favor of workplace safety; upholding drug testing as a reasonable means of exercising due diligence to ensure fitness for duty. However, the conclusions and available summaries on this case may be subject to misinterpretation. 

This case was one of discrimination, and the test the courts use to see if discrimination exists requires that: 

  1. Protected grounds were violated
  2. There was an adverse impact; and,
  3. A connection between the adverse impact and the protected ground exists

The conclusions can easily be seen as support for an employer to terminate a worker after an incident without any effort to determine if accommodation is reasonably necessary. This view would be a misinterpretation based on incomplete information. The case was more nuanced than that, and although the courts upheld the employer’s decision to terminate, it is important to note that a slightly different set of circumstances may have concluded quite differently. For instance, if Mr. Stewart was able to demonstrate that he was not able to limit his use of an illicit substance voluntarily, there would have been a compelling reason to see a connection between the protected ground of substance abuse dependency and the adverse impact of termination. 

The takeaway for CannAmm clients is the company had a well-drafted policy, including duties of each employee. Those duties included self-disclosure and being fit for duty, and the company was able to demonstrate Mr. Stewart had signed off on the policy and participated in employee training related to the program.

Bottom Line Remains: consistent and fair implementation of the program, a commitment to only act on a trusted result, having a high-quality up-to-date policy signed off by all staff that are covered by it, ensuring training for all covered staff is up-to-date, and that prudent case-by-case decision making (mindful of the duty to accommodate a real or perceived underlying disability) occurs when any violation or self-disclosure happens – as these are all fundamentally important.

Do you need assistance creating or reviewing your drug and alcohol policy? Contact your CannAmm representative today.

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