TransLink ordered to stop drug testing pot-smoking SkyTrain attendant

File photo of a SkyTrain stopping at a station. Global News File

A SkyTrain attendant who smokes pot in his spare time won’t have to undergo any more random drug tests — for now.

TransLink has been ordered to stop testing SkyTrain attendant David Solomon for cannabis, after he and his union filed a grievance on Nov. 21, 2018.

An interim ruling explains that the employee tested positive for cannabis during a periodic medical exam in September 2018, and was ordered to undergo twice-monthly randomized urine screening tests for one year.

The case highlights a tension between employee privacy and public safety.

SkyTrain attendants are trained to operate the trains in case of an emergency, and under the employers’ policy, “employees must be fit for work and must not consume drugs or alcohol while on duty.”

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Off-duty use of marijuana use is not prohibited.

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In the ruling an arbitrator explained that Solomon’s position is considered “safety critical.”

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The grievance alleges that a chief medical officer, appointed by the company under railway safety legislation, improperly imposed a drug monitoring program on him, contrary to Railway Medical Rules and the terms of the collective agreement.

CUPE Local 7000 argued that the testing is invasive and that tests showed Solomon doesn’t have a problem with substance abuse.

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The ruling notes he only smokes cannabis three to four times a week and doesn’t use it before or at work.

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It adds that he felt that it was not the employer’s concern if he used marijuana outside of working hours.

“We understand how this could be perceived as a public safety issue,” CUPE Local 7000 president Tony Rebelo said. “It has been our position that the independent medical examiner and the Chief Medical Officer overreached in their role.”

He said a clear policy regarding employees and cannabis use needs to be determined.

“We have contacted the employer and invited the company to sit down with us and jointly employ an expert to develop a protocol so that both public safety and workers rights are protected,” Rebelo said.

The union requested an interim order suspending randomized drug testing, pending a full hearing of the grievance, which has been set to begin on Nov. 12.

TransLink says it has no comment on the matter as it’s still in the legal process.

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