Evidence of Impairment: Cannabis

Zero-tolerance policy on cannabis is generally a constitutional infringement of the right to privacy

Article by John Botha

In a recent groundbreaking decision, the Labour Appeal Court ruled that a zero-tolerance policy on cannabis is generally a constitutional infringement of the right to privacy. The court emphasized that employees should not face prejudice unless there is evidence of impairment. This judgment has significant implications for employers who must now reevaluate their substance abuse policies and ensure they are not unfairly discriminating against employees who use cannabis outside of work hours.

While the court's decision protects employees' privacy rights, it also highlights the need for employers to have a well-defined process for identifying and addressing cannabis impairment in the workplace. Impairment can pose serious safety risks, particularly in industries involving heavy machinery, transportation, or public safety. Employers must strike a balance between respecting employees' rights and maintaining a safe working environment.

So, what constitutes evidence of impairment? A combination of physical, cognitive, and behavioral signs, along with tests for cannabis, can indicate a contravention of substance policies on a balance of probabilities.

Physical signs of cannabis impairment may include bloodshot eyes, drowsiness or fatigue, lack of coordination or balance issues, delayed reaction times, increased appetite, dry mouth, and rapid heart rate. These symptoms can impair an employee's ability to perform their job duties safely and effectively.

Cognitive signs of impairment may involve difficulty concentrating, confusion, impaired memory, an altered sense of time, and slowed or nonsensical speech. These signs can be particularly concerning in roles that require sharp mental acuity, such as those involving complex problem-solving or decision-making.

Behavioral signs of cannabis impairment can include sudden mood changes (such as giddiness, anxiety, or paranoia), a withdrawn or avoidant demeanor, inappropriate laughter or giddiness, decreased inhibitions, and unusual clumsiness. These behaviors can disrupt the work environment and raise concerns about an employee's judgment and professionalism.

It is important to note that these signs alone do not necessarily prove impairment. They must be considered in conjunction with other evidence, such as tests for cannabis. Employers should have clear testing protocols in place, which may include urine, blood, or saliva tests. However, these tests can only detect the presence of cannabis metabolites, not the level of impairment. Positive test results should be evaluated alongside observed signs of impairment to determine whether an employee has contravened substance policies.

Employers should also be aware that some signs of impairment may be caused by other factors, such as medical conditions, stress, or fatigue. It is crucial to approach suspected impairment with sensitivity and to allow employees an opportunity to provide an explanation. Policies should outline a fair and transparent process for addressing suspected impairment, including steps for testing, referral to employee assistance programs, and disciplinary action when necessary.

Source: Global Business Solutions​

Read More Here

Share this post
Sign in to leave a comment