How to get fired before you even start a job

This article was originally published by The Hamilton Spectator. 

In 2018, Wade applied for a job as a millwright at a lumber facility in Alberta. He did well in an online interview and a followup in-person interview. The employer made a conditional offer. It was contingent on him completing a drug and alcohol test, providing proof of his certifications and passing his reference checks.

The day before the drug test, he sent an email to human resources indicating he had a rare form of blood cancer and used medical cannabis to treat his condition. He noted the prescription was very high in THC and he had to take an “insane” amount, so he had a licence to grow pot. This was of course before the legalization of recreational use and limited cultivation of marijuana.

The next day, Wade passed his drug test but the employer put his conditional offer on hold and referred him to a third party to do a comprehensive assessment of the situation. The mill was a safety sensitive environment. There were big machines and high temperatures. Wade began the third-party assessment process. They would look at his medical records, diagnosis and treatment regimen as it related to marijuana. They would determine whether Wade could safely work in the mill or some accommodation needed to take place.

Before that process was finished, the employer withdrew Wade’s offer altogether. Wade filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal claiming he lost the job as a result of his disability.

The employer had a very different story.They claimed that before his employment had even started, Wade showed a lack of trust and respect for the company. The day after the HR person told Wade his job offer was on hold while he underwent the third-party assessment, he decided to send an email. He asked for a written explanation of why his job offer had been “pulled.” He said he thought it was ridiculous that it was even an issue and claimed it was a slander against his character that he was being put through the third-party assessment process and his start date delayed.

He said he disclosed his condition because he was worried about the marijuana treatment he had undergone some months before and there being trace amounts left. This was very different from the email he sent before the drug test claiming he was required to take an “insane” amount of THC.

The next day, Wade sent an even longer email complaining that he was still waiting for a response and that it would only take a few minutes to respond to an email. He alleged that the employer was stalling to try to figure out a way to get out of their deal. He alleged discrimination. The email was aggressive and accusatory.

The HR person tried to call him but he didn’t answer and didn’t respond to her voice-mail message. The next day, another email arrived from Wade saying he couldn’t return her telephone call because of his physical and mental state. The HR person sent an email explaining that the offer was not withdrawn or pulled and was only on hold until the third-party assessment was completed. Over the next five days, Wade continued to participate in the assessment process and then sent another email asking “what the hold up was?”

The next day, the employer sent Wade an email indicating that the third-party assessment was necessary for a safety sensitive workplace and that “rather than being patient with the process, you became aggressive, made allegations and demonstrated an overwhelming lack of trust in the company. For these reasons, it is clear that an employment relationship would not be viable and the company is withdrawing its conditional offer.”

Ultimately, the adjudicator found the employer was committed to finding a way for Wade to join the organization until his correspondence became inappropriate. His disability was not a factor in revoking the job offer.

While the employer had to pay to defend the human rights action, in the long run, it probably saved money, time and grief by acting on its instincts. Cutting Wade loose before he got through the front door was likely a smart move.

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Ed Canning
Ed Canning
P: 905.572.5809