Source: Hemel Today
Date: January 10 2007
Author: Julie McCord

A Haven Holidays salesgirl, who insists she has never smoked cannabis in her life, is in shock after being sacked for failing a random, company drugs test.

Teetotal and non-smoking 23-year-old Kelly Frearson, of Benchleys Road in Chaulden, is one of two employees dismissed by Bourne Leisure, after four members of staff were drug tested.

Another two workers, who were also randomly picked to take the test, were given the all-clear and have kept their jobs.

Kelly has worked at the holiday firm's call centre in Hemel Hempstead for two years. During that time she has received letters from her bosses in praise of her hard-working, conscientious and courteous approach to the job.

When Kelly turned up for her shift at the holiday call centre on Park Lane in mid December she was a little surprised to be asked to take a drugs test but was aware she had signed a form, agreeing to do so if requested, when she joined the firm .

Kelly said: "Most of the staff had been at a Christmas party the night before but because I don't drink I hadn't gone. It was a bit of a shock to be asked to take a drugs test but I wasn't at all worried because I've never taken any illegal substances.

"I was shown into the disabled toilet and asked to provide a urine sample which they explained would be sealed and sent away for analysis. It was all pretty degrading but, frankly, I didn't think any more about it."

A week later Kelly received a call on her mobile from her boss asking her to go into the office where she was told the test had come back positive.

"I was dumb-founded because I've never taken any drugs and here I was being told I had tested positive for cannabis. All I can think is that my husband, Barry, 31, does smoke cannabis to help with his depression and other illnesses, following the loss of his valeting business on the industrial estate after Buncefield. So maybe my positive test was a result of passive smoking."

But the company told Kelly her level was above the limit permitted by the drug testing laboratory for passive smoking and a disciplinary hearing was scheduled for the following day.

At that hearing Kelly says she was asked to resign. But when she flatly refused, because she is convinced of her innocence, Kelly was formally dismissed for failing the drugs test.

Now she plans to appeal and the company has refused to comment on her individual case, as it is the subject of an appeal.

A statement issued by Bourne Leisure said: "All team members must agree, in writing, to undergo testing and are supplied with the Team Handbook, explaining the company's policy on alcohol and drugs. This applies to every member of staff, up to and including director level.

"The tests are carried out independently by an internationally recognised laboratory.

"They normally select members of staff by randomly choosing payroll numbers, unless other grounds give rise for concern.

"To avoid any confusion, the effects of passive smoking are allowed for in the analysis of the results.

"If a test is positive, the member of staff concerned is suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. Everyone who has failed a drug test has consequently been dismissed from the company.

"On the subject of alcohol, we are clearly on the alert for any members of staff who may appear to have a problem.

"While alcohol is not an illegal substance, we will not tolerate any member of staff being under the influence."

The statement added that Bourne Leisure has a counselling service to assist and advise members of staff who voluntarily seek help. If they abide by the conditions laid down by the counsellors, the company will work closely with employees in attempting to resolve the situation.

Legalise Cannabis Alliance spokesman, Don Barnard, said permitted levels for passive inhalation in drug testing are highly controversial and he argues, they are much too low, as well as being open to distortion by some over-the-counter medicines.

He said that several cases, similar to Kelly's, have arisen in British industry in recent years.

Mr Barnard said: "Not many people know about them because the employees concerned have wanted to keep a low profile.

"In one instance, a woman who applied for promotion and consequently had to take a drugs test, ended up sacked instead, even though she maintained she had never taken an illegal substance.

"The fact that Kelly has refused to quietly resign and instead speak out, screams out that this is an injustice and she is not guilty of anything."



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