A herbal remedy resulted in a positive drug test!

A railway technician was unfairly dismissed for failing a drug and alcohol test after having herbal tea was found to have traces of cocaine.

Whilst it was found that the dismissal was unfair due to procedural issues, the employment judge decided that the technician should not receive compensation because he was entirely to blame for his own dismissal!

The technician was subject to a periodic drugs and alcohol test, which found that he tested positive for benzoylecgonine, a metabolite of cocaine routinely looked for in urine to establish use of the class-A drug.  The technician was suspended with immediate effect. However he submitted a statement stating that the most likely cause of his failed test was that he had drunk Inca tea which he had bought for its digestive benefits.

The product did not include a list of ingredients but having researched the product, the technician claimed that he now understood that the tea contained cocaine. The investigation recommended a formal disciplinary hearing based on the finding that the technician “knowingly ingested tea without understanding what it contained”.  The tribunal decision stated that the technician very quickly identified the tea as the source of the cocaine, this is clearly something he could have done prior to drinking the tea, but he chose not to.

The dismissal was therefore within the band of reasonable responses but it was not “just and equitable” to award the claimant any compensation.

Should you require information relating to drug testing, or suspension, contact 121 HR Solutions on enquiries@121hrsolutions.co.uk for guidance.

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