Sacked First Essex bus driver, Kenneth Ball has won almost £40,000 at the employment tribunal after telling the panel that traces of cocaine from money he handled could have contaminated his test results
Mr. Ball, who has been working for First Essex Buses from 1996 until his dismissal in July 2017 tested positive for cocaine.
Despite offering negative hair follicle tests as evidence that he was clean of drugs, his employer rejected the hair sample as valid proof.
The judge overseeing the case, said it was “illogical, grossly unfair and in breach” of the business’s disciplinary policies for First Essex Buses to discount the hair tests. The tribunal awarded Ball £37,639 for loss of earnings, future losses, an Acas uplift and other expenses.
Court documents showed Ball was required to take a random drug test in June 2017, in accordance with First Essex Buses’ drugs and alcohol policy. He was suspended after the results came back positive for cocaine.
Ball argued the test was unfair as he was not required to wash his hands nor wear gloves prior to handling the swab. He said he had returned from a busy shift where he picked up many students and had been handling cash, which is known to often contain traces of cocaine.
Ball, who was diabetic and was required to prick himself for blood sugar testing, also had very sore fingers which he would “constantly lick to stop the blood”.
The tribunal heard this resulted in Ball “tasting the blood, taking money and licking his fingers”, and this frequent hand-to-mouth interaction could have led to contamination of the sample.
First Buses stated the testing was in line with its national policy but admitted it “had not sought clarification from the toxicology lab on the testing procedures followed for the collection and processing of samples”.
After that appeal was unsuccessful, he lodged a further appeal to First Essex Buses. On 13 September, his employer dismissed this second appeal. Ball then brought his case to the East London tribunal in October 2017.
His lawyers noted that employers should always take mitigating circumstances into account when it came to disciplinary proceedings and failed drugs tests.