Ridout Barron


Termination not the suitable response to employee impairment

Pain relievers, cold medication and other nonprescription and prescription drugs can cause impairment of employees, along with recreational cannabis and alcohol. Although current legislation does not cover testing workers for impairment, Alberta employers and supervisors can develop policies for addressing it. This could promote a safety culture that recognizes and responds to impairment of employees instead of outright termination.

In industries where employee safety is at risk, employers may implement programs to test workers for impairment. However, before putting a plan in place, it might be a good idea to seek legal counsel on applicable labour and employment laws, human rights issues, occupational safety and health matters and privacy. Furthermore, any policies developed to deal with impairment in the workplace must be specific. Employees must know what is considered as impairment, and the steps that will be taken if a worker's impairment poses risks to others.

Such policies should include steps to identify impairment and assess the risk level and implement controls to prevent it in the workplace. Along with developing safe procedures, employees must be encouraged to report incidents of impairment. While documenting and investigating reported incidents is essential, employers are urged to support workers with substance abuse problems.

Employers in Alberta might find that being proactive in the approach to impaired workers could be in the best interest of the business and avoid the need for termination. An experienced lawyer in this field of the law can be an invaluable asset. Legal counsel can assist with the development of policies by which workers understand an employer's expectations when it comes to impairment in the workplace.

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Ridout Barron

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