Abstinence from cannabis for Metrolinx safety-sensitive workers

Feb 19, 2019

Metrolinx employees have received a memo from the company CEO, Phil Verster, to inform them of updates to the agency’s “fitness for duty” policy which will come into effect starting on February 1, 2019.

In the memo from Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster, employees are told of updates to the agency’s “fitness for duty” policy that will take effect on Feb. 1. According to the information contained in the memo, Metrolinx is banning employees who are in “safety sensitive” positions from using cannabis even when they are not working.

Phil Verster wrote in the memo, “[It] is my expectation that commencing on February 1, 2019 [a]ll employees who work in a safety sensitive position know that they are prohibited from using recreational cannabis and/or cannabis products whether they are on or off duty.”

Metrolinx is a Crown agency which manages and integrates road and public transport in the Golden Horseshoe region, including cities of Toronto and Hamilton and area. In a statement to Global News, a Metrolinx spokesperson revealed that the “safety sensitive” category includes 137 different positions in the company, and more could be added at any time. According to the spokesperson, a “safety sensitive” role in the company can be defined as “a key and direct role in Metrolinx’s operations and where performance impacted by alcohol and drugs or extreme fatigue could result in… failure to adequately respond to a significant incident.” The statement reads further, “Every employee of Metrolinx has a responsibility to safeguard the trust and safety of the public by ensuring compliance with the policy.”

Since the legalization of recreational cannabis in October of 2018, health and safety professionals across Canada have voiced their concerns on its impact on the workplace, especially with regard to safety-sensitive positions. In a controversial move, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has already implemented random drug and alcohol testing to its Fitness for Duty program.

Although this policy issued by Metrolinx does not allow for random drug testing of employees, it does permit drug testing when there is reasonable cause to believe an employee is unfit for duty, or following a major incident. According to the policy, a violation could result in discipline and even termination.

However, according to Employment and Social Development Canada, outside of the workplace, employers have the right to implement policies concerning substances as they see fit. Furthermore, this right extends to the use of substances such as cannabis and alcohol in the workplace.