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

AdvantageHOPE is working with Boston Pizza to find a franchisee for a Hope location. (Facebook/AdvantageHOPE photo)
Boston Pizza eyeing Hope for new location

With over 395 locations Canada-wide, company is looking to expand to Hope

Left to right: Sardis Kiwanis Club President Bruce Oakley with nominator Peter Somers, Sovereign’s Medal recipient Brian Cleaver, nominator Derek Fryer and nominator Peter Brown. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack’s Brian Cleaver wins Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers

Cleaver is a long-time member of the Sardis Kiwanis Club and a strong advocate for Special Olympics

New Chilliwack restaurant moving into supposedly haunted Nowell Street location

Many restaurants have come and gone, Twisted Thistle the most recent, at Nowell and Princess Ave

Hope’s first chainsaw carving of John Rambo is removed from in front of district hall, to save the carving from winter weather. (Rambo ‘First Blood’ Tourism/Facebook photo)
Hope’s Rambo carving tucked away for the winter

Not to worry, the $10,000 statue has not been carted away by thieves

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Stock photo
Pair’s lawsuit dismissed against Fraser Valley soccer association and churches

Judge in Abbotsford calls claims against 14 defendants ‘an abuse of the court’s process’

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Sex offender who viewed underage girls as slaves has prohibitions cut from 20 to 10 years

Appeal court reviewed the case of Kyler Bryan David Williams, 29

Ranil Prasad saw this poster near Surrey Central SkyTrain station on Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. He said it expressed “some specific reference to white replacement theory.” (Photo: Ranil Prasad/@run_neil/Twitter)
Surrey man urges public to watch out for ‘white replacement theory’ posters

Ranil Prasad said he saw the messaging at a Surrey SkyTrain station

The B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch has issued a decision about the actions of an elementary school teacher in Langley. (Langley Advance Times files)
Langley elementary teacher suspended for grabbing, shoving, yelling at kids

Roxann Rojas will lose her legal authority to teach for two weeks from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2020

Most Read