What is an Alcohol Test?
An alcohol test is a standardized assessment that gauges blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels in the blood to determine if an individual exceeds the regulated limit set by provincial and territorial jurisdictions across Canada. Generally, the median BAC range constituting an infraction falls between 0.04-0.079, while alcohol consumption at or above 0.08 represents a criminal offense per federal mandate.
An alcohol test serves as a traditional method to promote a drug and alcohol-free workplace environment, especially, as it relates to hiring or reinstating applicants or employees to safety-sensitive positions. However, many employers continue to face down legal impasses in pushing mandatory alcohol testing at the risk of violating human privacy rights, providing little recourse to maneuver around existing laws.
Although many employers advocate a zero-tolerance policy against drugs and alcohol consumption on the job, the Canadian Human Rights Act classifies alcohol dependency as a disability, which often requires companies to make reasonable accommodations. To this end, safety-sensitive positions across all business sectors must combat the prospect of forfeiting alcohol testing as part of their health and safety policy due to potential discrimination liabilities. However, the transportation industry is rallying for amendment(s) to the current BAC 0.08 marker to be reduced based on the comparatively lower ratio of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accidents to their passenger vehicle counterparts.
The federal divide over advancing universal alcohol testing programs and recognizing privacy rights often draws on weak cases linking recent alcohol consumption as a catalyst for addiction at the time of testing. Employers must interpret provincial and territorial guidelines aligned with federal law surrounding the evolving landscape of alcohol testing programs that best suit their needs.