Firm's dismissal of driver who 'only inhaled joint a couple of times' deemed fair

Firm's dismissal of driver who 'only inhaled joint a couple of times' deemed fair

Mr Morris accepted that he knew when he smoked it, that it was a joint, but he did not think anything of it as it was Saturday, and he only inhaled a couple of times. File photo: Getty

A decision by a building materials supplier to dismiss a driver for failing a drugs test after he admitted to smoking a single joint was fair.

That is according to the Labour Court which has thrown out an unfair dismissal action taken by James Morris against Sig Trading (Ireland) Ltd.

Employed with the company since 1999, Mr Morris told the Labour Court hearing that he smoked the joint by mistake on a Saturday night while off work but only inhaled a couple of times.

However, in her findings, Deputy Chairwoman of the Labour Court, Louise O’Reilly found that Mr Morris was familiar with the firm’s Alcohol and Substance Misuse policy and was aware of the likely consequences arising from a breach of the policy.

Upholding an earlier decision by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Ms O’Reilly stated that the court determines that there were substantial grounds in the case justifying dismissal and that the decision to dismiss fails within the band of reasonableness.

Sig Trading Ireland is the main Irish arm of FTSE quoted SIG plc and the Irish business recorded revenues of €85.1m in 2020. Mr Morris told the hearing that he was aware of two other people who were sacked for breaching the company's Alcohol and Drugs Misuse policy.

Drug test

On February 18, 2019, prior to starting his shift Mr Morris and several other safety critical employees were the subject of the firm's random alcohol- and drug-testing process.

Mr Morris tested positive in two tests by means of a ‘drug wipe’ and was then subject to a urine test and pending the outcome of that test Mr Morris was suspended from duty on full pay.

On February 26, 2019, the result of that drug test confirmed the presence of Cannabinoids in Mr Morris’s system on the day the test was carried out. The company’s evidence stated that Mr Morris did not deny the positive test and that he told the company that on the previous Saturday he was working on a car and had smoked a joint.

At a company hearing, Mr Morris stated that he had smoked the joint in error not knowing it was a joint at the time, as it had rolled under the car where he was working, and he had picked it up thinking it was his cigarette.

Safety critical role

Branch Operations Manager with Sig Trading Ireland, Patrick Mc McCullagh, said that the fact that the level of substance recorded was substantially above the threshold and that Mr Morris worked in a safety critical role, he felt that dismissal was the only option.

The firm stated that Mr Morris was working in a safety critical role and had consumed an illegal substance prior to attending for work. The company said that Mr Morris was aware of the company’s random testing policy and was aware of the consequences that could arise from failing such a test.

The company added that the drug test showed that Mr Morris's levels were significantly above the threshold figure.

Siptu accepted that Mr Morris had failed a drugs test but that he was not aware of the company’s substance and alcohol abuse policy as he believed that he was absent on sick leave when the policy was introduced.

Mr Morris told the Labour Court that he was shocked that he got a positive result in the drugs test. He said that he was working on his car with a friend and that he picked up the wrong cigarette.

Mr Morris accepted that he knew when he smoked it, that it was a joint, but he did not think anything of it as it was Saturday, and he only inhaled a couple of times.

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