Appeal court upholds temporary injunction on Suncor’s random drug tests

Appeal court upholds temporary injunction on Suncor’s random drug tests by Ryan Cormier, November 28, 2012, Edmonton Journal
In a split decision, the Alberta Court of Appeal has upheld a temporary injunction that prevents Suncor Energy from starting random drug tests of employees. The decision Wednesday means that Suncor’s new random testing program will remain stalled until an arbitrator rules on a grievance the union filed. While that arbitration is scheduled to begin Dec. 10, it is not known when a final decision will be reached. Two of the three appeal judges on the panel dismissed the appeal because they believed privacy rights were at stake. “Non-consensual taking of bodily fluids is an affront to privacy rights,” Justice Myra Bielby said.

A delay in the testing program is acceptable because Suncor themselves decided that contracted workers will not be subject to the same random tests until Jan. 1, Bielby said. Suncor originally wanted to start random testing of their own employees in October. Bielby also mentioned that the program was not limited to Suncor employees who perform the most dangerous work and she saw no proof that Suncor’s current program of testing employees before they are hired and after workplace incidents had an impact on safety. Justice Jean Cote decided the injunction should be lifted, but was in the minority. Cote told the court that Suncor’s oilsands site presents such a hazardous environment for workers and the environment that safety concerns should trump privacy rights. “One intoxicated man caused the Exxon Valdez incident,” Cote said, in reference to the massive 1989 oil spill off the Alaskan coast in which the sobriety of the ship’s captain became a key investigative point. Earlier in the day, Suncor lawyers said the testing was necessary because of numerous incidents of illegal narcotics and alcohol found at work sites in northern Alberta. … Ritu Khullar, a union lawyer, said employees who’ve given Suncor no reasons to doubt their workplace behaviour should not be submitted to “the indignity of the search.”

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