Employers should investigate further before immediately dismissing employees for violating workplace drug and alcohol policies. An employee’s diagnosis of substance dependence would be considered a disability, which is a protected ground under the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) for federally regulated employers.
Canadian human rights law also imposes a duty to accommodate. This requires employers to ensure that persons with characteristics protected under the Code are not unfairly excluded where working conditions can be adjusted.
The relationship between employee alcohol use and work is complex. In Ontario, there are specific legal obligations which apply, and employers must exercise caution. Without a proper understanding of their legal obligations, employers face a minefield which may unwittingly result in unwanted liability.