Fair Work Commission Reinstates Worker after Positive Cocaine Result:
A Closer Look at Drug & Alcohol Policies and Employee Rights
In a recent decision, [Reece Goodsell v Sydney Trains  FWC 3209 (4 December 2023)] the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has reinstated a worker who tested positive for the cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine.
Specifically, the worker was a team leader who in June last year, returned a positive result for cocaine in a random urine test on his first day back from eight days annual leave. Deputy President Michael Easton criticized the employer for not clearly communicating that its testing focus is on use rather than impairment and failing to address earlier criticisms of its drug and alcohol policy.
While acknowledging the validity of the dismissal due to the positive drug test, Deputy President Easton found the termination unfair based on several factors. These included the absence of any risk of impairment, the employee's 26 years of unblemished service, cooperation, and remorse. He also highlighted issues with the employer’s drug and alcohol policy, citing a lack of clarity in information provided to employees and the failure to consider alternative arrangements.
The FWC decision emphasised the need for caution in interpreting drug test results as a positive result in urine is not necessarily proof of impairment. The decision reflects concerns about a "zero tolerance" approach without considering mitigating factors.
Deputy President Easton ordered the worker to be reinstated with continuity of employment and backpay. However, in recognition of the positive drug test, he reduced the lost pay by 20%.
Drugs can take hours to days to appear in urine so a urine drug test may miss the period of impairment. If your drug and alcohol policy includes urine testing it may need to be reviewed in light of this FWC decision. Our DASA team of experts can assist you with this process. Contact us on 1300 230 231 or firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
This case underscores the importance of clear communication in drug and alcohol policies of the testing focus and the fair consideration of individual circumstances in employment decisions.
DASA (Drug and Alcohol Solutions Australia) is proud to be leading the way in workplace drug and alcohol testing services throughout Australia. Whether your need is for workplace drug and workplace alcohol testing, advice on drug and alcohol policy or ideas on how to communicate your workplace expectations, policies and procedures to your staff, DASA can help. We have the experience, technical expertise and people to lead you to the right solution.