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Employment & Labour

Clear policy on drug and alcohol use best option for employers

When drafting a workplace drug and alcohol policy, it can often be a challenge for employers to balance employee rights with the company’s need to operate a safe and productive workplace, Toronto employment lawyer Stuart Rudner tells The Globe and Mail.

“Employees can’t automatically be fired for showing up drunk or high at work,” Rudner, co-founding partner with Rudner MacDonald LLP, says in the article. At the same time, he adds, companies can take disciplinary action, especially if employees pose a risk to themselves or others.

“My recommendation is to have one policy which deals with the use of drugs and alcohol; the thrust of it is usually that you’re not supposed to be using or under the influence at work, and then a sub-aspect that deals with prescription medication,” he suggests.

“Just because you don’t have a policy doesn’t mean you can’t take action, but you’re going to be in a stronger position if you have a very clear policy that has been communicated to employees,” adds Rudner, author of You’re Fired! Just Cause for Dismissal in Canada.

Ultimately, he says an employer dealing with an employee who is drunk or high on the job needs to document their conversations regarding the problem and outline steps that include how the worker plans to handle the issue. Employees who suffer from an addiction will need to be accommodated, Rudner adds.

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