Workplaces are governed by a set of very strict and clear rules. The amendments to the Act respecting occupational health and safety set out the obligations of the employer and the worker, particularly with regard to drug and alcohol impairment. An employee is not free to do as he or she sees fit, nor is an employer, for a variety of perfectly justifiable reasons. In this regard, and since these substances are legal, is it possible to consume drugs and alcohol in the workplace? If so, in what cases are drug and alcohol use tolerated in the workplace?
The employer, drugs and alcohol at work
We know that impaired driving is an offence under the Criminal Code. But does the same apply to the performance of work? Under their management rights, employers can regulate, as well as prohibit, all forms of drug and alcohol use by their employees in the workplace within the context of the Act respecting occupational health and safety.
As an employer, you have an obligation to protect the health, safety and physical and psychological well-being of your employees. This is not only required by the Act respecting occupational health and safety, but also by the Civil Code of Québec and the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. For example, an employer can impose a “zero tolerance” policy in the workplace, which is justified by severe penalties that can even include dismissal of any employee who violates it. However, the policy in place must be applied rigorously, clearly and unequivocally. In addition, it must be communicated to existing staff.
However, the employer’s obligation to protect the health and safety of their employees does not allow for random screening tests to be conducted before the start of a shift or while an employee is doing his or her work.
The employee, drugs and alcohol at work
The employer is not alone in meeting certain obligations, the employee is also responsible. In this respect, every employee must perform work that his or her employer is entitled to expect. The Civil Code of Québec provides for such an obligation. Similarly, the Civil Code also states that an employee must perform his work with prudence and diligence, i.e. by following the rules of conduct dictated by his employer. The employee must therefore comply with any policy regarding the use or possession of drugs and alcohol at work.
The Act respecting occupational health and safety states that a worker must not perform their work when their condition poses a risk to their health, safety or physical well-being, or to that of other persons in or near the workplace, particularly as a result of drug and alcohol impairment.
An employee who fails to comply with an employer’s policy on drug and alcohol use in the workplace is subject to disciplinary action.
<H2> Defend your rights when charged with drug and alcohol use in the workplace
Although the law governing drug and alcohol use in the workplace applies to all Canadians, each company can adopt a policy tailored to its industry or job category. In order to implement effective rules, an employer would benefit from public consultation and a clear statement of its position and rationale. For those who opt for a tolerance of consumption, it will be necessary to clearly define the maximum acceptable threshold while valuing a preventive and not repressive approach.
Have you been accused of using drugs or alcohol at work? Contact DUI Montreal Lawyer. Our criminal lawyers will defend your rights.