“Draconian and Inflexible”, Arbitrator Declares ORNGE’s Drug and Alcohol Policy to be Unreasonable and Discriminatory

The Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) was successful in two grievances challenging ORNGE’s Drug and Alcohol Policy. Specifically, the OPEIU challenged the ORNGE’s “zero-tolerance” approach to medical cannabis, and its practice to treat prescribed medicinal cannabis differently from other types of medication.

Arbitrator Gail Misra declared ORNGE’s policy to be discriminatory and unreasonable. She concluded that “having a blanket edict that if an employee can only use medical cannabis to treat their illness, they cannot do a safety sensitive job, is draconian and inflexible, and is not supported by the [Canadian Human Rights Act] or the jurisprudence.”

As a result, Arbitrator Misra declared the policy to be “unreasonable to the extent that it fails to treat prescribed medicinal cannabis as a “medication”.  Furthermore, “having found that Ornge’s inflexible position regarding cannabis use in a safety sensitive position is unreasonable, I also find that the Policy was drafted in a discriminatory manner in that it does not properly provide for accommodation to the point of undue hardship for those working in a safety sensitive position, who, due to their medical condition, are prescribed cannabis for medical treatment purposes.”

The OPEIU was represented by Wassim Garzouzi, Julia Williams and Patt Gibbs.

The decision can be accessed here.

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