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The Casket - - Front Page -

Many of the ques­tions asked and con­ver­sa­tions that en­sued, were about deal­ing with cannabis use and com­pany pol­icy, while mak­ing ac­com­mo­da­tions, of­ten for em­ploy­ees’ med­i­cal needs

"What is the land­scape when hir­ing em­ploy­ees?" one guest asked, cu­ri­ous about what they were al­lowed to do, when it comes to screen­ing for cannabis in em­ploy­ees. "Does pri­vacy over­ride an em­ployer’s right to cre­ate a safe work­place? Are you al­lowed to [screen] in Nova Sco­tia?"

Specif­i­cally, the guest re­ferred to how em­ploy­ers in places like the oil patch in north­ern Al­berta are al­lowed to screen em­ploy­ees for drug use.

Franklin said it varies in Nova Sco­tia, as op­posed to the firm, zero-tol­er­ance poli­cies in the Al­ber­tan oil patch.

"If you don’t have a pol­icy, it’s go­ing to be very dif­fi­cult to jus­tify [drug] test­ing," Franklin said. "With the hir­ing process, you want to be in­cred­i­bly care­ful. It also de­pends on the job. If I’m hir­ing a truck driver, I can cer­tainly ask some­one, ‘are you phys­i­cally able to op­er­ate a ve­hi­cle safely?’ I’d get clear­ance from a doc­tor for that per­son, say­ing they are fit to work."

Franklin noted the dif­fer­ence be­tween recre­ational and medic­i­nal mar­i­juana has to be con­sid­ered by em­ploy­ees, since recre­ational cannabis has sig­nif­i­cantly more THC – the ac­tive high-in­duc­ing in­gre­di­ent – than medic­i­nal cannabis.

Macphee also re­sponded to the first ques­tion, not­ing em­ploy­ers have a duty to ac­com­mo­date em­ployee needs.

Macphee ref­er­enced a case where an em­ployer hired a man, but he failed a drug screen­ing test, be­cause he takes 1.5 grams of med­i­cal mar­i­juana, ev­ery evening, to deal with chronic health prob­lems.

"His doc­tor said it would not leave him im­paired [the fol­low­ing] morn­ing when he goes to work. The em­ployer said, ‘I don’t know about that, we don’t think we can ac­com­mo­date him be­cause he’s im­paired.’ He went to the ar­bi­tra­tor, and the ar­bi­tra­tor said that if he’s tak­ing that much in a safety-sen­si­tive en­vi­ron­ment, we can’t trust he won’t be im­paired.

"If he is work­ing in an of­fice, it would be dif­fer­ent," Macphee said, not­ing that the se­cu­rity is­sues with an of­fice job are not the same as some­one us­ing heavy equip­ment.

On the sub­ject of con­sump­tion of cannabis at the work­place, Macphee said it’s im­por­tant for em­ploy­ers to not make snap de­ci­sions on such mat­ters. Ac­com­mo­da­tion of em­ploy­ees’ needs is vi­tal, she noted.

"Make sure you ask ques­tions and don’t make de­ci­sions based on stereo­types. Get in­for­ma­tion," Macphee said.

As far as rules are con­cerned about cannabis con­sump­tion in the work­place, Macphee said em­ploy­ers can set those but need to work to ac­com­mo­date em­ploy­ees who use it medic­i­nally.

Franklin said, "it’s not a hu­man right to con­sume cannabis, but hu­man rights come in when it’s med­i­cal mar­i­juana."

Another topic of dis­cus­sion that stemmed from the first ques­tion – em­ploy­ees with ad­dic­tions.

Macphee said one em­ployer she is work­ing with has a pol­icy where em­ploy­ees are ex­pected to dis­close an ad­dic­tion. If an em­ployee gets in an ac­ci­dent, and they don’t dis­close their ad­dic­tion, they will be ter­mi­nated.

"You shouldn’t have to fig­ure out what’s wrong with some­one. The obli­ga­tion is on em­ploy­ees," Franklin said. "If you have an ad­dic­tion you have to speak up. You can’t wait un­til af­ter the fact. We’ve turned down com­plaints for that rea­son."

Shep­hard noted the type of job mat­ters, as well. "From the labour stan­dards per­spec­tive, the type of job mat­ters. There’s a dif­fer­ence if some­one who has worked 20 years in an of­fice shows up a bit high ver­sus some­one driving a truck and smok­ing a joint."

When en­forc­ing any sort of pol­icy about cannabis, Franklin said it’s im­por­tant to en­force a pol­icy uni­formly across all em­ploy­ees, since en­forc­ing pol­icy in­con­sis­tently may lead to em­ploy­ees al­leg­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Another guest asked what sort of time­line ex­ists with hu­man rights com­plaints re­lat­ing to labour.

"It could be re­solved that day, that week or two years down the road," Franklin said.

Cases vary a great deal, de­pend­ing on the na­ture of the com­plaint, the amount of ev­i­dence and the num­ber of wit­nesses.

"Most cases don’t take that long. It will take a num­ber of months, if you have one that goes all the way through the process of the board," Franklin said. "Once you’re at the board en­quiry stage, you have to deal with sched­ules of lawyers and the board chair."

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