On­tario Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion up­dates pol­icy be­fore pot le­gal­iza­tion

The Expositor (Brantford) - - NATIONAL NEWS - COLIN PERKEL

TORONTO — Em­ploy­ers are re­quired to do what they can to ac­com­mo­date med­i­cal cannabis users as well as those ad­dicted to pot but that doesn’t give em­ploy­ees carte blanche to show up at work stoned, On­tario’s Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion said on Thurs­day.

In its up­dated pol­icy guid­ance ahead of next week’s le­gal­iza­tion of recre­ational weed, the com­mis­sion says em­ploy­ers can ex­pect work­ers to be sober at work, par­tic­u­larly in safety-sen­si­tive jobs.

“Ac­com­mo­da­tion does not nec­es­sar­ily re­quire em­ploy­ers to per­mit cannabis im­pair­ment on the job,” the doc­u­ment states. “The duty to ac­com­mo­date ends if the per­son can­not ul­ti­mately per­form the es­sen­tial du­ties of the job af­ter ac­com­mo­da­tion has been tried and ex­hausted, or if un­due hard­ship would re­sult.”

Ul­ti­mately, the com­mis­sion said, the loom­ing change in the law has no im­pact when it comes to hu­man rights.

“The le­gal­iza­tion of cannabis is a new re­al­ity in On­tario,” Renu Mand­hane, the prov­ince’s chief com­mis­sioner, said in a re­lease. “But while cannabis laws are chang­ing, this pol­icy state­ment re­minds us that hu­man rights pro­tec­tions for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties or ad­dic­tions are the same.”

As is cur­rently the case in­volv­ing al­co­hol or other drugs, the rights code pro­tects peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties who use cannabis for a med­i­cal pur­pose from ha­rass­ment and other dis­crim­i­na­tory treat­ment in em­ploy­ment, hous­ing and ser­vice de­liv­ery.

How­ever, a pro­vin­cial ban on smok­ing to­bacco in en­closed spa­ces at work ap­plies equally to smok­ing or va­p­ing cannabis — whether med­i­cal or recre­ational.

Still, em­ploy­ers must al­low work­ers who smoke or vape cannabis for med­i­cal pur­poses re­lated to a dis­abil­ity to take breaks so they can go out­side to spa­ces where smok­ing is al­lowed, the com­mis­sion’s pol­icy states. Em­ploy­ees can also use edi­ble cannabis for a med­i­cal pur­pose at work but must be able to do their jobs prop­erly, the pol­icy says. A doc­tor’s note might be re­quired.

“Em­ploy­ers can re­quire em­ploy­ees to be free from recre­ational cannabis im­pair­ment at work,” the com­mis­sion says. “Im­pair­ment at work from cannabis use re­lated to a dis­abil­ity may also be pro­hib­ited if it in­ter­feres with health and safety or per­for­mance of es­sen­tial job du­ties.”

At the same time, the code also pro­tects peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties who may be ad­versely af­fected by cannabis smoke or vapour.

While drug test­ing might be ap­pro­pri­ate for cer­tain po­si­tions, the com­mis­sion warns the tests must be de­signed to pre­vent dis­crim­i­na­tion against peo­ple who use cannabis for a med­i­cal pur­pose re­lated to a dis­abil­ity or who are ad­dicts.

When it comes to rental and condo units, the com­mis­sion notes that peo­ple can as a rule smoke, vape or con­sume edi­ble cannabis at home — whether in­side or on their bal­conies. The ex­cep­tion is where laws or rules cur­rently ban to­bacco smok­ing or va­p­ing — such as in com­mon ar­eas — for pub­lic health rea­sons.

“Smoke or vapour from recre­ational or med­i­cal cannabis might neg­a­tively af­fect other build­ing res­i­dents, in­clud­ing peo­ple with chem­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties and other dis­abil­i­ties,” the doc­u­ment says. “Hous­ing providers have a le­gal duty to look for so­lu­tions.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, a land­lord or condo board has the author­ity to ban pot smok­ing in res­i­den­tial units, bal­conies and ter­races — un­less it in­volves some­one with a dis­abil­ity. In those cases, the duty to ac­com­mo­date is trig­gered.

What is likely to run afoul of the code is ban­ning pot smok­ing in places where peo­ple are al­lowed to smoke cig­a­rettes, the com­mis­sion says.

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