Alcohol and Drug Testing

Employers often ask AHS Addiction and Mental Health for advice on whether to test their employees for alcohol or other drug use. Addiction and Mental Health does not recommend testing employees unless there is evidence that substance use is compromising workplace or public safety, or is directly affecting job performance. If alcohol and other drug testing is introduced, we advise that it be one part of a broad company policy on substance use.

We know that alcohol and other drug use by an employee can cause serious problems in a workplace. We believe that employers and employees share the responsibility for making sure their co-workers and workplaces are safe.

Things To Consider

Most employees do not use alcohol or other drugs at work.

Some workplaces choose to include testing to improve safety. There are many types of employment-related alcohol and drug tests:

  • pre-employment
  • pre-access
  • random
  • reasonable cause
  • post-incident
  • follow-up
  • fitness for duty

When an alcohol test is positive, it can indicate how much someone is impaired. It cannot indicate how often someone drinks, or whether someone has an alcohol problem.

A positive test result for other drugs generally means that there was exposure to and/or use of a substance. It does not indicate how impaired someone may be, how often the person uses the substance, or whether someone has a substance use problem.

Drug Testing and Human Rights

The Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission takes the following position based on current human rights case law:

  • Drug and alcohol testing are only allowable in certain circumstances.
  • It is discriminatory to test potential or existing employees for drug and alcohol use if the testing is not reasonable and justifiable.
  • There is a duty to accommodate people with disabilities in the workplace, up to the point of undue hardship. Drug and alcohol dependency, whether perceived or real, fall within the meaning of disability under the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act.

Employers need to stay up to date on relevant laws and court decisions.

To learn more about creating a company policy on substance use and gambling, including employee testing issues, see the AHS information sheet, Alcohol/Drug Policy Development and Employee Testing.

For more information about Addiction and Mental Health services for the workplace, contact your local Addiction office or call the 24-hour Helpline at 1-866-332-2322 (Alberta only).