TransLink SkyTrain. (Black Press Media)

TransLink ordered to temporarily stop randomly drug testing SkyTrain attendant

Employee was made to undergo randomized urine screening tests for one year after he came up positive for cannabis

TransLink has been ordered to stop random cannabis testing of a SkyTrain worker who tested positive for the drug during a routine test.

The interim decision from a labour arbitrator came at the end of September, after the union filed a grievance on behalf of David Solomon.

Solomon, who has worked as a SkyTrain attendant since 2003, was made to undergo randomized, twice-monthly urine screening tests for one year after he came up positive for cannabis in a Sept. 2018 test, despite no evidence of cannabis use disorder or addiction found in an independent medical examination.

TransLink’s policies state there must be no drug or alcohol use while on shift, and that employees must be fit to work, but does not forbid pot use off the job. Recreational cannabis has been legal in Canada since Oct. 17, 2018.

Despite no evidence of addiction, TransLink’s chief medical officer, which it appointed under railway safety legislation, found that there was an “increased risk of presence of a marijuana use disorder” due to multiple factors.

Solomon, represented by Unifor Local 700, filed a grievance.

In his interim decision, arbitrator Arne Peltz said the issue raises the question of balancing public safety and employee rights.

As a SkyTrain attendant, Solomon’s main duties are customer service, fare inspection, limited mechanical or electrical fault correction and emergency responses. He may have to drive a SkyTrain in an emergency and is considered a “safety critical position” under federal railway safety legislation.

The drug screening he failed was required by federal legislation for all “safety critical” employees over the age of 40. He told the testers he did not use cannabis, but in followup tests conducted by Dr. Maire Durnin-Goodman, the director of Precision Medical Monitoring, in October, he admitted he uses three to four times a week.

Solomon told the tester there was “zero chance” of his cannabis usage affecting his work because he does not smoke before or after a shift. He said the positive test result was due to secondhand smoke exposure at a SkyTrain station, and that he had stopped smoking a week before the routine test.

“He felt that it was not the employer’s concern if he used marijuana outside of working hours,” Peltz wrote in a 52-page decision.

Durnin-Goodman said Solomon’s test results were consistent with regular pot use and not with having breathed in secondhand smoke. He did not meet the criteria for marijuana dependence or marijuana use disorder, she found, but his lies and defensiveness meant he should be monitored for a year with randomized urine tests. The chief medical officer upheld this decision.

As a result, Solomon had to check in daily to see if he would be tested and was put on administrative leave until January 2019. He has not tested positive since Jan. 1, 2019, at which time he resumed his SkyTrain duties.

In its arguments, the union said Solomon’s denial of cannabis use after the initial test was not important, as the drug is legal and TransLink policy did not forbid its use outside of work.

It said he avoids cannabis for eight to 10 hours before his shift starts, and cited research and guidelines that say six hours between pot use and work is safe.

In his decision, Peltz said he was granting the interim order banning random tests, as requested by the union, because it is “reasonably safe to uphold the grievors’ privacy and dignity rights at this point in time.”

The decision will need to go to final arbitration. A date has not yet been set.

ALOS READ: Metro Vancouver transit strike prompts cancellations as premier won’t intervene


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP say three people deported in connection to brawl caught on video

Police say they have been ‘actively engaged’ in the issue of youth fights in Newton since March

Cloverdale ‘Ladies’ Night Out’ shopping event expected to draw thousands

Annual event kicks off the holiday shopping season in downtown Cloverdale

South Surrey’s A Rocha Canada an agriculture-leader finalist

Surrey Board of Trade industry event set for Nov. 21

Surrey latest city to denounce Quebec’s Bill 21

The bill bans public workers from wearing religious symbols while working

Surrey’s Kongbo has eyes on Grey Cup prize as Bombers rookie

Holy Cross grad is a defensive end with Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Bye bye Bei Bei: Giant panda born in U.S. zoo heads to China

Panda heads back to China as part of cooperative breeding program

B.C. to advocate for frustrated, confused, unhappy cellphone users, says premier

Maple Ridge New Democrat Bob D’Eith to advocate for more affordable and transparent cellphone options

B.C. man who killed Belgian tourist near Boston Bar gets life in prison, no parole until 2042

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Christelle Sakkalis

Workers union calls strike vote in SkyTrain labour dispute

Mediated talks are scheduled to begin Nov. 28

‘Very disrespectful’: B.C. first responder irked by motorists recording collisions on cellphones

Central Cariboo Search and Rescue deputy chief challenges motorists to break the habit

Daily cannabis linked to reduction in opioid use: B.C. researchers

Researchers looked at a group of 1,152 people in Vancouver who reported substance use and chronic pain

Bids down, costs up on Highway 1, B.C. independent contractors say

Rally protests NDP government’s union-only public construction

Members of little people community applaud change to drop ‘midget’ term

‘It’s not about sensitivity,’ says Allan Redford, the president of the Little People of Canada

Most Read