Updated Ontario Human Rights Commission policy on drug and alcohol testing gives valuable guidance on protecting rights

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) launched its updated policy on drug and alcohol testing on Oct. 13.
This policy offers guidance to Ontario employers and employees about drug and alcohol testing, and about the potential human rights concerns arising from testing.

It lays out where testing guidelines and programs may discriminate and where they may be justified. The policy also gives guidance on how to design them to respect human rights, where testing is necessary to achieve safety. It incorporates updated case law and research and it sets out user-friendly examples to advise people about their rights and help employers make informed decisions about drug and alcohol testing.

Workplace drug and alcohol testing is contentious because it reflects how human rights, privacy rights and employer requirements can collide. The policy represents the OHRC’s best advice on how employers can respect the human rights of people with addictions to drugs or alcohol – or perceived addictions to drugs or alcohol – when it comes to testing.

“We all want to work in a safe environment and employers have a legal obligation to provide one. This policy shows how employers can develop drug and alcohol policies that meet health and safety concerns and respect human rights,” said OHRC chief commissioner, Renu Mandhane.

“Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace remains challenging terrain for employers and HR professionals to navigate. The OHRC’s updated policy provides clear, concise guidance on how to balance what are, at times, competing factors: the importance of providing a safe workplace for everyone, and the need to respect the privacy and the human rights of your employees," said CEO of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA), Bill Greenhalgh. 

The updated policy is available on the OHRC’s website.