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Up in Smoke

By Hempology | January 1, 2007


Man suspended by company after testing positive for marijuana use is filing a human rights complaint

A man suspended from work after testing positive for pot has filed a human rights complaint, claiming his boss refused to let him see the company drug-testing policy.

Stephen Shorten, 46, says he suffers from chronic pain and smokes a nightly joint – paired with ibuprofen – to ease the discomfort.

His arms were broken after they got caught in a machine at the Layfield textile plant in April, and he only returned to full-time status in October.

Shorten said he and eight other staffers were told to provide urine samples for marijuana testing on Dec. 6. He tested positive and was immediately suspended.

Over the nearly five years Shorten has worked at Layfield he said the company has turned a blind eye to recreational pot use, so long as staffers showed up for work sober.

But in November they beefed up the policy to no longer tolerate pot use of any kind, he said.

“They never told us of the change. I didn’t find out until after all this happened,” he told the Sun.

“I don’t have an issue with obeying the new policy. But when I asked to read it ( a supervisor ) told me I couldn’t.”

He said he submitted to a urine test under duress.

Shorten was first prescribed morphine for his pain, but after consulting with a physician he switched to marijuana.

“If I’d been told, or allowed to read the new policy against pot use, I’d have found another drug or gone back to morphine. But they didn’t even give me a chance to do that.”

The Alberta Human Rights Commission monitors court cases of allegedly unjustified drug and alcohol testing in the workplace, and is investigating Shorten’s complaint.

An Ontario court recently ruled that random blanket drug testing is discriminatory because it does not reflect actual or future impairment on the job.

“Unlike a breathalyzer, drug testing does not prove impairment,” said Alberta commission director Marie Riddle.

“Some drug and alcohol users have a disability. Firing them because they test positive can be discrimination.”

Shorten doesn’t see himself as having a disability, but “didn’t expect the company I broke my arms for to be so eager to suspend” him.

“Co-workers asked me how I dealt with the pain and I told them quite honestly – a joint and an ibuprofen. It’s not like I’m a pothead,” he said.

The Layfield Group refused comment yesterday.

If the human rights commission investigation finds Shorten’s complaint sound, a quasi-judicial panel will hear his case. If unresolved it could be handed over to the courts.

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