The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) recognizes that it is a legitimate goal for employers to have a safe workplace. Safety at work can be negatively affected by many factors, including fatigue, stress, distractions and hazards in the workplace. Drug and alcohol testing is one method employers sometimes use to address safety concerns arising from drug and alcohol use. Drug and alcohol testing has particular human rights implications for people with addictions. Addictions to drugs or alcohol are considered “disabilities” under the Ontario Human Rights Code (Code). The Code prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and perceived disabilities in employment, services, housing and other social areas.
The Code protects people from discrimination and harassment because of past, present and perceived disabilities. “Disability” covers a broad range and degree of conditions, some visible and some not visible. A disability may have been present from birth, caused by an accident, or developed over time.
There are physical, mental and learning disabilities, mental disorders, hearing or vision disabilities, epilepsy, mental health disabilities and addictions, environmental sensitivities, and other conditions.
- Policy on accessible education for students with disabilities (2018)
- Policy on drug and alcohol testing (2016)
- Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability (2016)
- Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions (2014)
- Policy on environmental sensitivities (Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2014)
The Ontario Human Rights Code recognizes the importance of creating a climate of understanding and mutual respect for the dignity and worth of each person, so that each person can contribute fully to the development and well-being of the community and the Province. The Code guarantees the right to equal treatment in education, without discrimination on the ground of disability, as part of the protection for equal treatment in services.
This Policy replaces the Guidelines on accessible education (2004).
September 2018 - Ontario’s Human Rights Code and the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policies apply to cannabis in the same way they do for other drugs. The Code protects people who use cannabis for a medical purpose related to a disability from discriminatory treatment in employment, housing, services and other areas. The Code also prohibits discrimination against people who have or are perceived to have an addiction to cannabis based on the ground of disability.
June 1996 - The guidelines contained in this policy are intended to help applicants, employees and employers to understand their rights and responsibilities regarding employment-related medical information.
November 1996 - This policy clarifies the scope of the Code's protection for persons who are or are perceived to be infected with HIV or who have contracted HIV-related illnesses. The guidelines contained in this policy are based on extensive consultations between the OHRC and a wide-ranging number of interest and advocacy groups, employer groups, services providers, and members of the medical community, including hospital administrators.
September 2000 - Drug and alcohol testing are of particular concern in the workplace, notably for those Ontario employers that have safety sensitive operations, and/or that are subject to U.S. regulatory requirements (e.g. the trucking industry) or to the policies of U.S. affiliates with “zero tolerance” for the consumption of drugs or alcohol. For this reason, this Policy focuses on the workplace. However, it applies to other social areas as well.
November 2000 - Under the Code, everyone has the right to be free from discrimination because of disability or perceived disability in the social areas of employment, services, goods, facilities, housing, contracts and membership in trade and vocational associations. This right means that persons with disabilities have the right to equal treatment, which includes the right to accessible workplaces, public transit, health services, restaurants, shops and housing.
June 2014 - The OHRC’s Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health disabilities and addictions is intended to provide clear, user-friendly guidance on how to assess, handle and resolve human rights matters related to mental health and/or addictions. All of society benefits when people with mental health or addiction disabilities are given equal opportunity to take part at all levels.
April 2016: We are currently revising our Policy on drug and alcohol testing (2000). This summary contains some of the important points employers should be aware of in the interim. The updated policy will be available before the end of the year.
The OHRC’s Policy on ableism and discrimination based on disability is intended to provide clear, user-friendly guidance on how to assess, handle and resolve human rights matters related to disability. All of society benefits when people with disabilities are encouraged and empowered to take part at all levels.