Man Fired After Drinking Tea Made From Coca Leaves Caused Failed Drug Test

Man Fired After Drinking Tea Made From Coca Leaves Caused Failed Drug Test

A British train technician working in safety for Network Rail was let go in 2022 after drinking a South American herbal tea caused him to fail a drug test at work. Paul Glenholmes had purchased “Inka tea” in 2020 from a market stall to assist with digestive problems related to his medication. He was unaware the tea contained coca leaves, which possess cocaine in them.

Several weeks after regularly consuming the tea, Mr. Glenholmes underwent a drug screening and tested positive for benzoylecgonine – a byproduct signalling cocaine use. He was promptly suspended pending further inquiry per Network Rail’s strict controlled substance rules.

Upon researching the tea after the fact, Mr. Glenholmes informed his employers that the coca leaves were likely the reason behind the results. He admitted to not having researched the ingredients beforehand due to the tea relieving his digestion issues.

Mr. Glenholmes was subsequently invited to a disciplinary hearing for purportedly knowing there was cocaine in the tea when he drank it. Citing sickness, he did not attend and later asked for the original urine sample to be retested.

The second examination showed he was over 4 times the cutoff for misuse. Nearly 2 years after the initial failed test, another disciplinary proceeding was held and Mr. Glenholmes was formally terminated.

He appealed the dismissal which was rejected. Mr. Glenholmes then initiated an employment tribunal lawsuit against Network Rail for unfair termination. He did not dispute consuming the tea blindly, but claimed proper investigation was lacking regarding his overall culpability.

The judge ruled that Mr. Glenholmes deserved blame for intentionally ingesting an unknown foreign substance against policy. His dismissal was deemed reasonable, although procedural flaws meant his legal challenge prevailed. Still, the court awarded no compensation. An auxiliary wage deduction complaint from Mr. Glenholmes was also discarded.

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Photo by Sam B on Unsplash

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

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