TransLink SkyTrain. (Black Press Media)

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

More affordable rental housing is needed in Maple Ridge says a city report. (Black Press Media files)
Report calls for more affordable housing for seniors and families in Maple Ridge

BC Housing conducting virtual dialogue sessions for Maple Ridge residents

Carnival and midway at the Ridge Meadows Home Show. (The News files)
Ridge Meadows Home Show a no-go this year

Executive director Cass Winder disappointed, but hopeful for next year

Construction workers have begun work to repair the Art Infiniti Hotel on the Lougheed Highway in Maple Ridge. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Work underway to repair Maple Ridge hotel damaged by fire

Cause of Art Infiniti hotel fire still under investigation

Logan and Joseph Salembier, Grade 2 students at Maple Ridge Elementary, were featured on this years Variety Show of Hearts Telethon. (Special to The News)
Variety telethon – featuring Maple Ridge twins – raises more than $6 million

The annual event raises money for children across the province with special needs

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after a news conference at the legislature in Victoria on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. reports 559 new cases of COVID-19, one death

4,677 cases of the virus remain active in the province; 238 people are in hospital

Vancouver Canucks left wing Antoine Roussel (26) tries to get a shot past Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) during second period NHL action in Vancouver, Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks cough up 3-0 lead, fall 4-3 to visiting Edmonton Oilers

Vancouver falls to 8-13-2 on the NHL season

Jessica McCallum-Miller receives her signed oath of office from city chief administrative officer Heather Avison on Nov. 5, 2018 after being elected to Terrace City Council. McCallum-Miller resigned on Feb. 22, 2021, saying she felt unsupported and unheard by council. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace’s 1st Indigenous councillor resigns citing ‘systemic and internalized racism,’ sexism

McCallum-Miller said in a Facebook post she felt unheard and unsupported by council

Temporary changes to allow for wholesale pricing for the hospitality industry were implemented June 2020 and set to expire March 31.	(Pixabay photo)
Pubs, restaurants to pay wholesale prices on liquor permanently in COVID-recovery

Pre-pandemic, restaurateurs and tourism operators paid full retail price on most liquor purchases

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Teachers and support staff at Surrey’s Ecole Woodward Hill hold flags and wear red during a “walk-in” outside the school on Tuesday. (Submitted photo: Matt Westphal)
Teachers, staff host ‘solidarity march’ at Surrey school hit by COVID-19 variants

‘We need better safety standards in Surrey schools with the variants’: teachers association president

Wade Dyck with Luna, a dog who went missing near the Chasm for 17 days following a rollover on Feb. 5. (Photo submitted).
Dog missing for 17 days through cold snap reunited with owner in northern B.C.

Family ecstatic to have the Pyrenees-Shepherd cross back home.

Quesnel RCMP confirmed they are investigating a residential break-in at a home on the Barkerville Highway. (File image)
Thieves make off with $300K in Cariboo miner’s retirement gold

Tim Klemen is offering a reward for the return of his gold

Most Read