Ontario court throws out workplace drug tests

Oil giant needs reasonable cause for saliva tests on unionized employees, appeal judges rule

When Imperial Oil Ltd. began random saliva tests on unionized employees at its Nanticoke, Ont. refinery, it must have known it was picking a fight. This week, Ontario’s highest court ruled against the company, with potential implications for workplace drug-testing programs throughout the country. The court found that the tests do not fall within Imperial’s management rights under its collective bargaining agreement with the workers. More importantly, the court also said the tests represented an “unwarranted intrusion” on the employee’s privacy and “an unjustifiable affront to their dignity”—language that will no doubt resurface in similar cases in the future. What does it mean? For unionized workers, a whole lot, say labour law experts. Ontario is the first appellate court to rule on the newer saliva tests, which are favoured by companies who monitor employee drug use. Now, companies who want to do across the board drug testing will have to negotiate the programs in collective bargaining (good luck with that). Non-union workers, however, must live with the narrower protections afforded under human rights legislation.

The Lawyers Weekly

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.