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Worker fired for breaching policy, not over drug problem, Supreme Court rules

Worker in denial about addiction, but should have known not to take drugs before work
| hrreporter.com
Supreme Court of Canada
A man walks by the Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa. Reuters

OTTAWA (CP) — The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed an appeal in a case involving an Alberta worker who was fired by a mining company after testing positive for drug use.

In an 8-1 ruling, the court says the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal was right to conclude that the man was fired for breaching the company's drug policy, not because of his addiction.

The policy, which includes support for treatment, requires employees to disclose any dependence or addiction issues before any drug-related incident occurs.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin says while the employee may have been in denial about his addiction, he knew he should not take drugs before work and had the capacity to disclose his drug use to his employer.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Clement Gascon said the employee, Ian Stewart, was terminated for giving in to his drug dependence and did not receive reasonable accommodation from the company.

The tribunal found that while the complainant's drug addiction was a disability protected under the legislation, there had been no discrimination, a finding that was upheld by lower courts.

"The Alberta Human Rights Tribunal held that Mr. Stewart was not terminated because of his addiction, but for breaching the policy, which required him to disclose his addiction or dependency before an accident occurred to avoid termination," McLachlin wrote.

She said she saw no reason to interfere with that finding.

"The tribunal's decision that prima facie discrimination was not established was reasonable," she wrote. "It is therefore unnecessary to consider whether Mr. Stewart was reasonably accommodated."

Read Canadian Employment Law Today's coverage of the case before it reached the Supreme Court here.

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