The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal has backed the suspension of a bus driver who returned a positive drug test after taking an ecstasy tablet.
The bus driver failed an oral drug test in January this year and later admitted to taking ecstasy at a party five days before the test.
Transport for NSW then suspended the bus driver’s driving authority on the basis she was unfit for work until she undertook a treatment program.
The bus driver provided a form from a doctor stating she met the medical standards expected of a driver.
She appealed to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal arguing she did not have a substance abuse problem and the drug taking was an isolated incident.
The tribunal took into account the safety concerns raised by the bus driver’s positive drug result, her resignation and the confirmed presence of amphetamines and methamphetamines.
“Recreational illicit drug use may well be common within the community. It is clear from the quoted objects of the Passenger Transport Act and the capacity for Transport for New South Wales to impose criteria on the authority of passenger transport drivers that this is an area in which an authorised driver’s private behaviour may be subject to public scrutiny,” the tribunal found.
A spokesperson for Roads and Maritime Services told SmartCompany the safety of all road users is the highest priority for the authority.
“Public passenger vehicle drivers risk their driver’s authority being suspended or cancelled if they return positive drug or alcohol tests, regardless of whether it is a first offence,” the spokesperson said.
“The suspension will remain in place until Roads and Maritime can be satisfied with medical evidence the applicant is eligible to drive a public passenger vehicle.”
Employment lawyer Peter Vitale says the case highlights that it is still possible for conduct outside the workplace to be taken into account in assessing whether or not the employee has breached the requirements of their employment.
“When people are driving vehicles on public roads normally a fairly dim view will be taken of doing this when impaired by drugs or alcohol,” he says.
Vitale says a policy of drug testing employees needs to be reasonable and applied consistently.
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“Employers need to demonstrate such a policy is reasonable in the circumstances of their workplace, if they can get over that hurdle provided there is a policy which is clear, applied consistently and which implements testing standards and criteria that are reasonable and appropriate then courts and tribunals will enforce those policies,” he says.