Australian worker who tested positive for cocaine claims unfair dismissal

A worker recently filed an unfair dismissal claim before the Fair Work Commission (FWC) after testing positive for cocaine. He said that he only tried to use it during his leave and that he was not impaired when he went to work.

On October 12, 2022, Reece Goodsell filed an application against Sydney Trains, seeking reinstatement to his former role. On June 4, 2022, after returning from a leave period, Goodsell underwent a random drug test, resulting in a positive test for a cocaine metabolite.

Subsequently, he was suspended and eventually terminated on September 23, 2022. Both parties acknowledged Goodsell’s violation of Sydney Trains’ Drug and Alcohol Policy (D&A Policy), which the Commission described as “uncomplicated.”

The D&A Policy stated a commitment to a drug and alcohol-free workplace, emphasising a safe environment for all workers and customers. Goodsell, with 26 years of service, held a position of trust as the work group leader (traction) at the time of his dismissal.

Goodsell outlined responsibilities such as conducting pre-work briefings, identifying hazards, coordinating with protection officers, closing work orders, and managing labour costing. He returned to work on June 4, 2022, after a leave period.

Worker tried cocaine during leave

Four days before his return, on May 31, 2022, Goodsell engaged in a night out with friends and tried cocaine. Believing it would be out of his system by his return to work, he acknowledged this judgment error. On June 4, 2022, he underwent a random drug and alcohol test, showing no signs of impairment.

Despite a positive reading for cocaine metabolites in the initial urine sample, Goodsell, maintaining his normal state, expressed that he would not have attended work if he felt impaired. Confirmatory testing returned positive for benzoylecgonine at a concentration of 264ug/L, exceeding the Australian Standard cut-off of 150ug/L.

‘Error in judgement’ cited with disciplinary investigation

On June 17, 2022, Goodsell received a notification of disciplinary investigation, focusing solely on the drug test and the positive reading. Goodsell’s wrote back to the notice and included the following statements:

“I would like to bring to the investigator’s attention that my decision to try cocaine was a one-off. I made an error in judgement for which I am deeply apologetic.”

“At the time I attended work on 4 June 2022, I did not perceive or feel I was impaired or intoxicated in any way shape or form. If I honestly felt impaired in any way, I wouldn’t have attended work,” he said.

“At no stage of my employment with Sydney Trains have I consumed prohibited drugs on agency premises at any time. Safety for workers, customers and myself (sic) is paramount which I take very seriously.”

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