An employee who worked as a machinery operator has had his personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal upheld by the Employment Relations Authority.

The employee was dismissed after he consented to undergo a reasonable cause drug test after his employer received a complaint from a member of the public who had seen him smoking “pot” in his car. The drug test came back positive for cannabis.

The ERA held that the employer was not entitled to undertake a reasonable cause test based on a complaint from a member of the public. The fact that the employee admitted to being in his car at the time also did not provide reason for a drug test. The ERA did not accept the employer’s argument that the employee had displayed unusual behavior which necessitated the test. The ERA also found that the employer could not retrospectively validate its testing process after receiving a positive result, and the test could therefore not be relied on as a reason for dismissal.

The ERA awarded three months wages plus $1,500 compensation. The ERA held that the compensation was significantly reduced due to the employee’s admission of smoking cannabis for 30 years and his awareness of the employer’s drug and alcohol policy, as well as the employee’s high test results and lack of understanding as to why it was important to be sober in the workplace.