Bus Driver Unfairly Dismissed After Positive Drugs Test
A Bristol bus driver has won his claim for unfair dismissal after proving his employer’s drugs test results were wrong.
Alan Bailes was employed by First Bus for 22 years and had a clean disciplinary record. He participated in a random saliva test for drugs in March 2012 and results showed that he had failed the test and had a positive reading for cocaine in his system. During the disciplinary process, Mr Bailes explained that on the day he was tested, he had handled hundreds of pounds in cash and then had eaten his sandwiches – an action which could have caused hand to mouth contamination of the illegal drug, just before he undertook the saliva test. Mr Bailes had to then handle the saliva swabs himself and was not asked to wash his hands before doing so. However, despite this explanation, First Bus summarily dismissed Mr Bailes.
Research shows that up to 88% of UK banknotes in circulation carry detectable traces of illegal drugs, with 1 in 20 having ‘very high’ readings of cocaine.
Following his dismissal, Mr Bailes paid £440 on a more accurate hair specimen test via his GP which proved that he had not had drugs in his system in the last 3 months. Mr Bailes then submitted this evidence on his appeal to his employers. However, despite the seemingly compelling evidence, First Bus refused to reinstate Mr Bailes and upheld his dismissal.
The employment tribunal criticised the failure by First Bus to investigate both the explanations put forward by Mr Bailes and the further medical evidence that he provided and deemed that they had been ‘’wholly uninterested in exploring that sensitive but important issue’’. They found his explanation that his positive drugs test was as a result of him handling contaminated bank notes, not from his own use of cocaine. He was awarded the maximum unfair dismissal award of £84,000.
Due to the increased use of drug testing within organisations, employers are advised to ensure that they have both reliable testing procedures and methods in place and also that they carry out a fair and reasonable investigation into any allegations of drug use before taking any disciplinary action.