A driver who claimed to have smoked only one ‘joint’ two days before reporting for work has been sacked after testing positive for cannabis.
In the case, the driver for the building supplies company was the fifth worker to be dismissed by the company since January 2017 for failed drugs tests.
The driver sued for unfair dismissal at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and stated that he had only a single joint on the Saturday night before reporting from work on the Monday and that smoking the cannabis joint was a mistake.
The driver argued that he was not under the influence of any substance on the day of the initial test and that no consideration was given to any alternative sanction other than dismissal.
However, WRC Adjudication Officer, Roger McGrath found that the driver’s claim for unfair dismissal “is not well founded”.
Mr McGrath stated that there is no doubt that the driver smoked an illegal substance prior to undergoing the initial test.
He found that considering the driver’s safety critical role, the company’s decision to dismiss falls within the range of reasonableness.
The company pointed out that the driver had himself undergone at least one test previously and must have been aware that four colleagues had been dismissed for breaches of the policy in the previous two years.
The company submits that on February 18th 2019, the driver along with several other employees were the subject of a random alcohol and drug testing process.
The driver tested positive for cannabis.
After a disciplinary process, the driver was dismissed on April 12th 2019.
The dismissal letter stated that illegal substances had been detected in the driver's system which is a serious breach of company policy.
In the letter, the company stated that the consumption of substances can impair the behaviour of a person in a safety critical role which is a serious failure in their duty and cannot be tolerated in any way.
The manager who made the decision to dismiss the worker stated that the driver’s role was a safety critical role and he could not trust that such an incident could not occur again in the future.
The company told the hearing that it requires all staff to work to its values of respect, accountability, and integrity.
The company stated that it is legally obliged to take all the necessary steps to safeguard the workplace and ensure the safety of staff and of the public in respect of its drivers.
The company stated that there are significant potential consequences of the driver’s actions in his capacity as a driver and therefore, the sanction of dismissal was a justifiable response in the circumstances of the case.
The driver told the WRC that the decision to sack him was unwarranted or at least too severe.
The driver stated that he was a very good employee, prudent, committed to his job and had an excellent work record.
He pointed out that at the time of his dismissal he did not have any warnings on his file.
The driver also suggested that the overall decision to dismiss him was coloured by his work history; that he had previously made allegations of bullying against his manager and that he had rejected the company offer of an exit package in December 2018.