Last month, failing to follow their own drug & alcohol policy cost Adelaide-based employer, Lincon Logistics Pty Ltd, $8150, when an unfair dismissal hearing found that the business didn’t have a valid reason to dismiss an employee, who had refused a blood test as part of a drug and alcohol test.
In March this year, Lincon Logistics had received an anonymous tip off alleging some workers, including this employee, were using drugs whilst at work on the SA Power Networks powerline project. Understandably, and especially considering the high risk industry the employees were working in, the company required its employees to participate in a random drug testing program.
The worker in question agreed to and passed a urine test, which was permitted under the drug and alcohol policy. However, the company then received another anonymous tip off, suggesting that the urine tests had been tampered with. Due to this information, the company requested the worker submit to a blood test, which was refused. The employee was then dismissed that same day. The employer argued that a refusal to undertake testing could result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
During the Fair Work Commission hearing, the worker argued he had agreed to a second urine sample, but refused the blood test, and that the requirement for a blood test was not set in the employer’s drug and alcohol policy.
Commissioner Platt accepted that the industry was high risk; that the anonymous information received by the employer set an appropriate basis to initiate initial and follow up tests, but did not accept that Lincon Logistics had provided a solid explanation as to why it departed from its drug and alcohol policy, to require more invasive blood tests.
Due to this action, Commissioner Platt said “The request made of [the worker] to subject himself to a blood test was not expressly permitted by the policy and was not a reasonable direction. I therefore find that there was no valid reason for the dismissal.”
The worker did not seek reinstatement and was awarded $8150 in lost wages. Employers with workplace policies, including drug and alcohol policies should review their procedures regularly, to ensure they are working in line with their policies. Employers without written policies and procedures should take action, so agreed standards within the workplace can be formalised.
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