The company investigated and concluded that they couldn’t rule out that the employee may have been impaired. (Photo: iStock)
Can an employer demand that an employee take a breathalyzer test after an incident at work?
A recent Ontario labour complaint case looked at the circumstances of an employer having demanded a drug and alcohol test from the employee after an accident occurred.
The employee, who was a maintenance contractor at a refinery site and was wearing all his safety equipment, including a hard hat, safety glasses and earplugs, had backed a company vehicle into another company vehicle in the company’s parking lot. As a result, he damaged the front bumper of the car.
It was policy that while on company premises, employees had to reverse park into the lots. The employee did so and admitted he did not see the vehicle in his rear view mirror.
This particular workplace is considered a highly sensitive worksite, because it is a lubricant refinery that deals with pressurized materials that have the potential to explode.
In situations where an incident happens in which drugs or alcohol may have played a role, then the employer requires testing. The employer has its own alcohol and drug policy that outlined this requirement.
In this specific incident, the company investigated and concluded that they couldn’t rule out that the employee may have been impaired.
However, the employee refused to undergo testing, because he had privacy concerns, as the testing was invasive.
As a result, the employer suspended him, though the employee thought he had been terminated and filed a complaint.
The arbitrator found that though in post-incident cases testing is required if there is no good explanation for the incident, the employer still has to consider the privacy rights of the employee, as well as, among other factors, whether there were signs, or a history of, impairment.
In this case it was found that the employee had no history of drug or alcohol abuse and that there were no physical signs of impairment.
The arbitrator validated the employee’s complaint and asked that the employee and employee resolve this issue between themselves.