Not all addiction is created equally

Ontario arbitrator departs from precedents in finding addiction isn’t automatic defense for stealing drugs in a medical workplace
By Ashley Brown
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 02/14/2018

In a recent decision, Cambridge Memorial Hospital and ONA (M. (S.)), Re, Ontario arbitrator Dana Randall upheld the discharge of a drug-dependent nurse with 28 years of service and no disciplinary record who was caught stealing narcotics from her employer. The decision is significant because it deviates from a string of arbitration decisions in Ontario which appear to support the proposition that a nurse who pleads and proves an addiction to a particular drug, and successfully commits to rehabilitation, has a human rights defense to termination for stealing that drug from her employer. One arbitrator referred to this defense as a “get out of jail free card.”

What happened?

For several years, an experienced registered nurse stole and personally consumed narcotics from the hospital where she worked in Cambridge, Ont. In some cases she diverted prescribed painkillers to herself from patients under her care and falsified medical records. The hospital dismissed the nurse, for cause, and the union grieved.