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

Two Maple Ridge women of distinction nominated for award

The Women Influencers Awards takes place on Sunday, Nov. 17

UPDATE: Union protests rising violence in B.C. prisons

Noon-hour event at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women

Burned out renters can’t find housing in Maple Ridge

Tight rental market, high rent costs create desperate situation

Outgoing president proud of Chamber’s business advocacy

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows chamber holds AGM

Realtors Care Blanket Drive coming in November

Numerous drop-off locations for the public at real estate offices in Maple Ridge

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Seguin lifts surging Stars to 4-2 win over Canucks

Dallas is 6-0-1 in last seven outings

UPDATE: Metro Vancouver bus drivers to refuse overtime as transit strike escalates

Overtime ban could disrupt 10-15 per cent of bus service in Metro Vancouver

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

South Surrey man and city settle beef over backyard cow

Asad Syed, who kept a calf on his property last year, met City of Surrey in court Tuesday

Batten down the hatches: Wet and windy weekend on the way for coastal B.C.

Environment Canada issues special weather warning for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Most Read