Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Upholds Employee’s Termination for Drug Use

In Bish v. Elk Valley Coal Corporation, 2013 ABQB 756, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench upheld a decision of the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal regarding the termination of an employee who tested positive for cocaine following a work-related accident.

Elk Valley Coal had implemented an Alcohol and Drug Policy that included a statement that employees must cease any recreational drug use and any employees with a dependency or addiction could come forward before an incident and seek rehabilitation without termination. However, the policy also provided that discipline or termination could not be avoided if employees sought treatment for "abuse, dependency or addiction" after an accident.

The Court maintained the Tribunal’s decision to uphold an employee’s termination after testing positive for cocaine following a workplace incident. The Tribunal found the employee "was not fired because of his disability, but rather because of his failure to stop using drugs, failure to stop being impaired in the workplace and failing to disclose his drug use." The Court agreed.

The employee’s argument that any connection between a disability and adverse treatment is sufficient for a finding of apparent discrimination was rejected by the Court.

What Does This Mean for Employers?

Bish v. Elk Valley is mostly good news for employers. Employers in Alberta can still rely on provisions in an Alcohol and Drug Policy that require employees to stop drug use or disclose dependencies in advance of a workplace incident.

Further updates will be released when this matter is appealed to the Alberta Court of Appeal. If you have questions or would like to discuss your Alcohol and Drug Policy, please contact any member of our Labour and Employment group.