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June 28 2018

Canada: SCC Upholds Employer's 'No Free Accident ' Alcohol and Drug Policy

In June, the Supreme Court of Canada released a landmark decision in Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp. (2017 SCC 30), reinforcing the right of employers to take proactive risk mitigation and management measures through the adoption of alcohol and drug polices to ensure workplace safety.

Following a workplace accident, plaintiff Ian Steward tested positive for cocaine. During an investigation meeting with his employer following the positive test, he stated that he was addicted to the drug. Stewart worked in a safety-sensitive mine operated by defendant Elk Valley Coal Corporation, which had an alcohol and drug policy that required employees to disclose any addiction issues before the occurrence of an alcohol or drug-related incident or face termination.

The Alberta Human Rights Tribunal held that, while Steward suffered from a disability, named addiction, he was terminated for breaching the Policy, not his addiction (2012 AHRC 7).