Addicted employee keeps relapsing

Accommodation gets more difficult after relapses
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 11/22/2017

Question: If an employee with a drug addiction keeps having relapses despite numerous attempts to accommodate him and just can’t stay working, can the employer terminate his employment?

Answer: An employee’s drug addiction can negatively impact behaviour, performance, and workplace safety. Given that relapses are common and considered a part of drug dependency, these employees often have high rates of absenteeism. As tempting as it may be to terminate these employees, employers must first be mindful of their legal obligations. Drug addiction is considered a disability under human rights legislation and, like any disability, employers have a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship.

A duty to accommodate is the principle that employers should, in good faith, make every reasonable effort to support the disabled employee. This duty is shaped by medical information substantiating the employee’s drug addiction, the employee’s specific limitations and restrictions in performing their job duties, and confirmation that the employee is following any prescribed treatment plans. It is the employee’s responsibility to disclose this information and it is the employer’s responsibility to respect the dignity and privacy of the employee.