Accommodation Example #1

  • Ontario prohibits smoking or vaping cannabis for a recreational or medical purpose in an enclosed workplace.
  • An employee can consume edible cannabis for a medical purpose related to a disability in an enclosed workplace, as long as it does not interfere with workplace health and safety or performing essential job duties.
  • Example: An employer accommodates an office clerk with periodic breaks throughout the workday so he can consume edible cannabis for a medical purpose related to his disability.
  • The cannabis helps treat some of the symptoms of his multiple sclerosis. His doctor determines the amount of cannabis consumed will not interfere with job performance or workplace health or safety and declares him fit for work.

Accommodation Example #2

  • Example: In Aitchison v L & L Painting and Decorating Ltd, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) found that the termination of a painter who smoked cannabis for a medical purpose at work during his breaks was not discriminatory.
  • The painter worked on the outside of a building 37 floors above ground.
  • The HRTO concluded his actions represented a genuine health and safety risk given the safety sensitive nature of the job site.
  • The HRTO found no evidence that the employee asked for an accommodation. Rather, the HRTO said the employee took it upon himself to medicate at work without authorization from his treating physician or employer.
  • The HRTO also found the employer’s policy prohibiting cannabis smoking on the job was bona fide and reasonable and did not impose automatic termination or close the door to accommodating employees who use cannabis for a medical purpose into a non-safety sensitive position.

Accommodation Steps

  • Be sure to include steps that address return-to-work success.
  • Include a contact schedule/frequency.
  • How the employee will reintegrate with their team.
  • These steps are important as they help to re-establish trust, create healthy boundaries, and reduce stigma.
  • Accommodation should be collaborative - the goal is to keep the employee functional at work.
  • All accommodation requests should be taken in good faith.
  • It’s important to maintain confidentiality of the employee, and
  • Additional documentation should be only requested if necessary.

Employee Obligations

  • Employees have a duty to perform their job safely.
  • This includes the need to understand their job and the impact that using substances (medical/therapeutic or non-medical) could have on their safety and the safety of others.
  • Employees have a duty to work safely, and to follow prescribed health & safety legislation and employer’s policies and programs.
  • As part of education and training, employees and supervisors will be aware of the signs and symptoms of impairment.
  • If anyone suspects impairment in others or wishes to report their own inability to work safely, this concern should be reported to the supervisor or delegated persons.
  • If an employee requires a medication that is known to cause impairment, it is beneficial that they notify their employer.
  • In some cases, they may have a legal obligation to do so.
  • The includes any over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs including cannabis used for therapeutic purposes.
  • Employee’s diagnosis does not need to be stated.
  • If there is an effect that may prevent the employee from performing their work safely, appropriate accommodations should be made.
  • The employee should:
    • provide relevant documentation to the employer
    • follow any medical directions that relates to taking the medication
    • follow all precautions regarding impairment
  • It is the responsibility of the employee to:
    • work with their medical professional to complete any form or assessments necessary to support fitness to work or accommodation plans
    • participate in return to work/remain at work planning
  • If there are changes to the employee’s abilities, these changes should be promptly discussed with the employer by the employee.

Education and Training

Employers should be:

  • aware and trained on their role and responsibilities regarding organization’s policy(ies)
  • aware of how impairment will be assessed (e.g., fit to work)
  • educated and trained on substance use, including;
    • information about disability due to substance dependence 
    • impact on safety, health, personal life, and work performance

Employees should be:

  • aware of current resources and supports are available for an individual and their family
  • aware of any implications of discipline if there are contraventions of the organization’s policy(ies)
  • provided with employer’s accommodation policy and procedures
  • if trained to do so, be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of impairment in others, and report concerns to their supervisor or employer

Prevention and the Healthy Workplace

  • Workplace Factors
  • There are workplace factors that may contribute to substance use, for example:
    • jobs that offer little control or low job satisfaction
    • repetitive, monotonous jobs with periods of inactivity
    • working in isolation or remote areas with little supervision
  • There are many personal and social factors that can influence an individual and could lead to a substance dependence issue.
  • There are also some work-related factors that can negatively impact an individual and potentially lead to substance use:
    • high stress, low control
    • low job satisfaction
    • long hours or irregular shifts
    • fatigue
    • repetitious duties
    • periods of inactivity or boredom
    • isolation
    • remote or irregular supervision
    • easy access to substances
  • Prevention and the Healthy Workplace
  • Individuals with substance dependence may feel fear of discrimination and stigma.
  • This can prevent them from seeking help and addressing the issue.
  • For these reasons, it’s important to create supportive workplaces in which there is a culture of respect and inclusion to help those facing challenges, and keep employees safe and healthy.
  • Often substance use and mental illness are concurrent disorders
  • Substance use can have a significant impact on the mental health of an individual as well as the culture of the organization.