Substance Use at the Workplace: The scope and limits of accommodation

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Event date: 
Thursday, November 17, 2016 - 12:30 to 14:00
Name of Organization: 
Lancaster House Publishing

Substance Use at the Workplace: The scope and limits of accommodation

Thursday, November 17, 2016, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm EST



Supporting an employee who is struggling with a substance use disorder can be especially challenging for employers and unions, who must balance accommodation, privacy rights, and workplace safety. Join Lancaster's experts for guidance on addressing this complex issue. Topics to be discussed include:

  • Understanding substance use disorders: How prevalent are substance use disorders in Canada? What job performance and workplace behaviours may be warning signs of a potential substance dependency issue? What are some best practices for approaching an employee who appears to be struggling with a substance use disorder? How can employers and unions distinguish between a recreational user and an employee who is struggling with a substance use disorder? What strategies are effective in combatting stigma, and encouraging affected employees to seek help? Is prolonged medical treatment and medical monitoring appropriate for all employees with substance use disorders? Is recovery possible without treatment? Is non-abstinent recovery possible?
  • Clarifying the duty to inquire: What is the employer's "duty to inquire" and how far does it go? What should be done if the employee denies having a problem, even though other signs point to possible dependency? In what circumstances will it be found that the employer should reasonably have known that substance abuse or dependency was a factor in an employee's behaviour?
  • Meeting the duty to accommodate: In general, what are an employer's obligations towards an alcohol- or drug-dependent employee in the accommodation process? What kinds of accommodations are typically found appropriate? Referral to rehabilitation? Toleration of absenteeism? Reassignment to different duties? Scheduling changes? Will an employer's duty to accommodate come into play if a claim of substance abuse is made only after discipline or discharge is imposed, for example, during the grievance procedure? Does the employee have reciprocal duties in the accommodation process, and if so, what are they? What is the union's role in the accommodation process? At what point may accommodative measures give rise to undue hardship? To what extent is an employer obligated to tolerate relapses? What role do employer liability and insurance concerns play in the accommodation and undue hardship analysis?
  • Creating enforceable last chance agreements: What provisions are usually included in a last chance agreement? Are last chance agreements consistent with the employer's duty to accommodate? In what circumstances can the terms of a last chance agreement be challenged?
  • Dealing with misconduct: What legal tests do adjudicators apply in determining whether workplace misconduct is causally connected to a substance use disorder? Is post-discharge evidence of rehabilitation admissible before an arbitrator? If so, what weight will be given to such evidence?