Supreme Court of Canada Upholds Enforceability of Drug and Alcohol Policy


The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) has confirmed the enforceability of drug and alcohol policies that:

  • encourage voluntary disclosure of an addiction prior to an incident; and
  • state that failure to disclose a dependency before an accident may result in termination of employment.

On June 14, 2017, the SCC dismissed the appeal of Stewart v Elk Valley Coal Corporation. For a summary of the facts of Stewart, we refer you to our previous insight on the topic.

A majority of the SCC gave deference to the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal’s finding that Stewart’s disability was not a factor in his termination. Stewart was fired because he failed to comply with the terms of Elk Valley’s Drug and Alcohol Policy and for no other reason. Stewart’s addiction was not a factor in the termination of his employment, as it did not diminish his capacity to comply with the terms of the Policy.

The majority of the SCC was careful to note that when considering any employer policy, a finding of discrimination will depend on the facts of the particular case and the nature of an individual’s addiction. The Court made it clear that employees who have the capacity to voluntarily disclose an addiction to their employer, but who fail to do so, cannot escape discipline arising from breach of a policy by relying on their addiction.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.