Employee drug and alcohol testing in the workplace
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Last week, we discussed various options for accommodations that employers can consider for employees with substance dependence-related disabilities. We then delved into general rules around drug and alcohol testing of employees and briefly outlined some differences between drug and alcohol tests. In the last part of our series on substance addictions at work, we will touch on whether employers can conduct drug tests on specific employees, as well as random drug testing in the workplace. We’ll also cover some alternatives to drug and alcohol testing and highlight the human rights issues at play when it comes to the subject of employee substance use. 

Drug & Alcohol Testing of a Specific Employee

Due to concerns over potential intrusion on privacy and human rights issues, drug and alcohol testing is generally justified in Canada where employees are in safety-sensitive positions and one of the following situations applies: Continue Reading Substance Addictions at Work: A Guide for Employers – Part 4/4

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The COVID-19 Period in Ontario’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave has been extended until September 25, 2021. Prior to this change, the COVID-19 Period was set to end on July 3, 2021. 

What does the end of the COVID-19 Period mean?

The end of the COVID-19 Period is relevant to employers who reduced the hours of their employees due to COVID-19 reasons. In many cases, these employees were “laid off,” meaning they work no hours at all. 

Typically, a layoff can only last for a specific number of weeks. The introduction of the “deemed IDEL” and the extension of the COVID-19 Period have made it possible for these employees to remain off work/laid off for much longer, without a termination being triggered. 

If you were an employer keeping the July 3, 2021 end date in mind, you can forget that and add September 25, 2021 to your calendar. Continue Reading IDEL COVID-19 Period Extended to September 25, 2021

addiction accommodations at work
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Last week, we discussed the employer’s duty to accommodate employees with disabilities, which includes drug and alcohol dependence. Employers have a duty to accommodate employees up to the point of undue hardship. This is a high bar!  So employers need to give a lot of thought to what they can possibly do before deciding it’s not possible to accommodate an employee.  Employers will normally have at least a few options for employee accommodations, ranging from leaves to addictions support programs, which we will discuss below. We will also cover drug and alcohol testing in this blog. 

Leaves

Very often, the accommodation that an employee suffering from an addiction requires is a leave. Many medical notes recommend this option; should an employer encounter such a note, the employer can put the employee on an unpaid leave with continuation of benefits. The fact that the leave is unpaid can sometimes incentivize employees to recover and return to work sooner rather than later. The timeline of these types of leaves can be very long, unless the doctor makes clear that the employee will never be able to do the job again. In these scenarios, the employer may have to accommodate the employee to work in another position within the company.  Continue Reading Substance Addictions at Work: A Guide for Employers – Part 3/4

 

addiction accommodations at work
Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

Last week, we discussed challenges that employers face when dealing with substance dependence and addictions challenges in the workplace. We ended off discussing the employer’s duty to inquire. 

An employer has a duty to inquire as to whether an employee has disability-related accommodation needs when the employer is aware or reasonably ought to be aware that there may be a relationship between a disability and the employee’s job performance. An employer who observes unusual or troubling behaviour has a duty to assess the situation and look into whether the employee’s behaviour may be the result of a disability before the employer imposes any sanctions on the employee. 

An employer has a duty to raise concerns with the employee and to advise the employee that accommodations may be possible if their behaviour is a result of a disability, for example.  Continue Reading Substance Addictions at Work: A Guide for Employers – Part 2/4

Substance Addictions at Work
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Many employers will at some point encounter drug and alcohol issues in the workplace. Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, substance dependence is considered a disability. An addiction to drugs or alcohol also constitutes a disability within the meaning of the Ontario Human Rights Code

An addiction should only become an issue for the employer, however, if it affects the employee’s work performance. Employers have a right to expect a certain level of performance and competency from their employees, but employees have a right to be accommodated for their disabilities to the point of undue hardship.  Continue Reading Substance Addictions at Work: A Guide for Employers – Part 1/4

pregnant employee notice periodIn the case of Nahum v. Honeycomb Hospitality Inc., the employer, Honeycomb Hospitality, terminated their Director of People and Culture, Sarah Nahum when she was five months pregnant. 

Entitlement to Notice of Termination

The notice period is intended to bridge a terminated employee to their new position. Courts consider the employee’s age, length of service and the character of their employment when determining what notice period is appropriate. 

Ms. Nahum had been with Honeycomb for just four and a half months. She was 28 years old and made $80,000 per year. She was terminated without cause, did not have a valid contract governing her termination entitlements, and therefore was entitled to notice in accordance with the common law. 

Honeycomb argued that an appropriate notice period for Ms. Nahum was two months.   Continue Reading How Does Being Pregnant Impact an Employee’s Notice Period?

Paid Infectious Disease Emergency Leave
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We’ve discussed the unpaid Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) in a number of our previous blog posts. On April 29, 2021, the Ontario government made updates to this leave and amended the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA), introducing the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit. In addition to the unpaid IDEL, employers are now also required to provide eligible employees with the new paid IDEL – more specifically, up to $200 a day for up to three days – for reasons related to COVID-19. The three days need not be taken consecutively. 

What are the eligible reasons for taking the paid IDEL? 

Paid IDEL is available for certain reasons related to COVID-19, including: Continue Reading The New Paid Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL)

Constructive Dismissal and the IDEL
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At long last, the impact of Ontario’s Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) on employee constructive dismissal claims has been litigated. Employment lawyers have been speculating for a long while about how courts will treat the various employment pivots employers were required to make during the pandemic. We now have our first answer. 

Last week, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released its decision in Coutinho v. Ocular Health Centre Ltd. and ruled that the IDEL does not take away an employee’s ability to sue for constructive dismissal. 

What’s Constructive Dismissal?

A constructive dismissal occurs when an employer unilaterally and substantially changes an express or implied term of the employee’s contract. The term also needs to have been essential. Changes regarding pay, duties, hours of work etc., can all potentially be constructive dismissals.  Continue Reading An Important Ruling for Employers on Constructive Dismissal and the IDEL