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Posted 9 June 2016
by Stephen Jennings

No claim for unfair dismissal of line manager who refused work place drug test

In the recent case of Dyson v Asda Stores Ltd, an Employment Tribunal rejected a claim for unfair dismissal by a line manager whose employment was terminated for failing to take a workplace drug test.

Mr Dyson was a warehouse operations manager for Asda. The employer received an anonymous allegation relating to an “Andrew Dyson” referencing an old newspaper article that appeared to show he had been caught taking drugs in the past. On reviewing the allegations, the employer was satisfied that this related to another Andrew Dyson who also worked for the company. The employer explained to Mr Dyson that it was not thought that he was the person referred to in the allegations, but asked him to take a drugs test anyway to show that the matter had been fully investigated. Initially, the employer asked Mr Dyson for a voluntary sample but when he refused this request was made compulsory. Mr Dyson still refused to take the test and was subsequently dismissed.

The employer argued that the dismissal was fair because as part of his management role, Mr Dyson was expected to enforce the drugs and alcohol policy and had even used the policy to dismiss an employee in the past. It also argued that managers were expected to lead by example and to set high standards of behaviour for others to follow.

The Employment Tribunal acknowledged that there were procedural flaws in dismissing Mr Dyson, in particular that the test had initially been voluntary and then became compulsory. However it concluded that the decision to dismiss fell within the band of reasonable responses. In particular the Tribunal recognised that this was a potentially dangerous workplace where forklift trucks were in operation, and stated that the employer could not run the risk of failing to investigate fully once it had been tipped off about an employee taking drugs.

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About the author

Stephen Jennings

Partner and Solicitor

Partner in the litigation department specialising in employment law, he is the relationship manager for many of the firm's employment clients