The decision of Mr. Justice Paul Belzil in the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench granting an interim injunction to block Suncor’s random drug testing policy has now been released. The Court applied the three part test for an injunction: there is a serious issue to be tried, there will be irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted, and the balance of convenience favours the injunction.
Points of note from the decision include:
- The parties agreed that the Suncor site is dangerous “but agree on virtually nothing else”.
- The parties each submitted expert evidence in support of their argument. For the Union, Dr. Thomas Wild from the University of Alberta opined that measurable improvements in safety will not be achieved by random testing. In contrast, for Suncor, two experts including Dr. Beckson from the University of California opined that random testing does decrease the risk of incidents and injuries in the workplace.
- The evidence conflicted on whether the use of drugs and alcohol at the site was an increasing or decreasing problem.
- Irreparable harm was found due to the impact that random testing would have on the privacy and dignity of the workers.
- Other drug and alcohol policies and practices would still continue on the site, which was a factor indicating the balance of convenience favoured the Union. Another factor was the impact on employees who have no drug or alcohol issues and who have not been involved in workplace incidents.
Consequently, Suncor will be barred from implementing the random drug and alcohol testing policy on-site. This case will either continue to the Supreme Court of Canada, or if leave to that Court is denied, will be remitted back to a new arbitration panel for determination.
Rob Sider, KC, is the head of the Labour, Employment and Human Rights Group at Lawson Lundell. His practice focuses on management-side labour and employment law. He advises on labour and employment aspects of commercial ...
Katy Allen is a partner in the Labour, Employment and Human Rights Group in Vancouver. Katy approaches legal issues with practicality and a focus on each client’s unique business needs. She advises and represents clients ...
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