Employee drug and alcohol testing in the workplace
Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

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

addiction accommodations at work
Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

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
Photo by Jeff W on Unsplash

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?

using social media to vet new hires
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

This is Part 2 of our two-part series on social media in hiring. Click here for Part 1!

There is the personal and there is the professional, and never the twain shall meet. At least that was once the prevailing attitude towards work life and private life. In a progressively interconnected world, the personal and the professional are becoming increasingly intertwined. But are there problems, particularly legal problems, that arise from the fusion of these two aspects of one’s life? What sorts of employment-related legal issues, for instance, might employers (and employees, by extension) encounter in the hiring process if they choose to review candidate social media profiles? We’ve covered some issues in Part 1 of our “social media in hiring” series. Below are some further thoughts worth considering.
Continue Reading Part 2 – Caution to Employers Using Social Media to Vet Potential New Hires

questions about vaccines and employees
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

With the vaccine becoming more widely available, questions about vaccine passports, time off to get the vaccine and whether employers can require employees to get the vaccine are becoming more relevant. 

Paid Vaccination Leave in Saskatchewan

Last week a new paid vaccine leave became law in Saskatchewan. This leave, which was made under Saskatchewan’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 2020, allows workers to take PAID time off to get their vaccines. Saskatchewan is the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement this type of leave. 
Continue Reading Vaccinating the Workforce

favourite posts to revisit
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

What a wild ride 2020 has been. Our offices are closed this week and our team is (hopefully) enjoying a well-deserved vacation. While most of our 2020 blogging has been Covid-19 related, and while much of our blogging does tend to revolve around legal updates, occasionally a “fun” employment topic makes its way onto the blog. For today’s post, I thought I’d pick out a few of my all-time (definitely non-Covid-19) favourite posts to revisit.

Dress Code Rules: What’s wrong with saying “no hot pants”?


This blog attracted a lot of eyeballs – thank you Google Analytics! Dress codes are one of the sneaky ways that employers often still discriminate. I know it’s been awhile since we’ve all been to a Jack Astors or a Hooters,  but you should know that legally the female waitresses should be allowed to dress exactly like the men and vice versa.


Continue Reading Special Bonus Holiday Blog! Hilary’s 2020 Favourites

IDEL extension July 3, 2021
Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

We had a feeling this might happen! And it has. The Ontario government has extended the length of the Deemed Infectious Disease Emergency Leave (IDEL) AGAIN! Enacting O. Reg 765/20, amending O. Reg 228/20 both under the Employment Standards Act (ESA). 

We have been warning our clients – and webinar attendees – about the upcoming January 2, 2021 end to the Deemed IDEL – it has now been extended to July 3, 2021. 

What is a Deemed IDEL? 

Employees who were laid off or had their hours reduced from March 1, 2020, until July 3, 2021, are on a deemed IDEL. During normal times, we would consider these employees to just be laid off but these regulations convert any reduction in hours – including all the way to ZERO hours and ZERO pay – to be deemed IDELs and not layoffs. 
Continue Reading New! IDEL Extension Until July 3, 2021

workplace mandate for vaccination
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Now that Canada has started to administer its first COVID-19 vaccine shots, many employers are wondering if they can require their workers to get vaccinated? A workplace mandate for vaccination seems like sensible risk management after a year of devastating costs for employers due to the pandemic. 

What if My Employee Refuses to be Vaccinated?

But what can an employer do if an employee refuses to be vaccinated? As long as your employees are not unionized, employers have the right to terminate employment without cause for any reason unless it’s discriminatory. As long as the requirement or any policy related to vaccination doesn’t infringe on any human rights protection owed to the employee, the requirement is not discriminatory. Requiring an employee to be vaccinated when they have a good reason not to be – for example, they are immunocompromised and it is not recommended by their doctor – would likely be a human rights violation.  An employee terminated for refusing or delaying in being vaccinated will be owed any contractual, statutory or perhaps common law termination pay to which they are entitled. This is because the refusal to be vaccinated likely won’t be just grounds for a termination with cause. 
Continue Reading Vaccination and the Workplace