First Reference company logo

First Reference Talks

News and Discussions on Payroll, HR & Employment Law

decorative image

HR in the news: From unpaid internships to alcohol testing policies

It seems a lot of heated HR issues have begun to resurface in the news recently. From the accommodation of medical marijuana to the legality of unpaid internships, these are some issues that have been plaguing HR professionals in recent years.

Medical marijuana

Earlier this month, new federal regulations governing access to medical marijuana took effect. As of a couple weeks ago, the ability to write prescriptions for medical marijuana will now be moving from Health Canada to individual doctors. Many believe that this new setup, and the associated media attention, will likely mean a flood of new prescription requests in the future. (Source: Huffington Post)

This is something HR professionals need to be aware of and prepared for in the workplace. Last month, the issue surfaced in the news when an officer challenged the RCMP about being able to smoke medical marijuana while on the job and in uniform. A heated debate ensued and questions arose around the legal responsibilities for employers in regard to this this issue.

Are you ready to respond as an employer if an accommodation-issue around medical marijuana arises in your workplace?

Unpaid internships

The Ontario Ministry of Labour has begun cracking down on unpaid internships and will be targeting all magazines publications in Ontario starting April 1st. Toronto Life and The Walrus were the first to be inspected – and compliance orders were issued for violations of several standards. As a result, both magazines have had to cancel their internship programs saying that they simply cannot afford to take on interns as employees (Source: CTV News). The same is now happening at many other popular Rogers-owned magazine publications (Source: The Star).

This is also not a new subject of intense discussion. Last year, HootSuite made news headlines when it began receiving a lot of negative attention on social media networks around their use of unpaid interns. It also shed light on the fact that unpaid internships are somewhat of a grey area for many employers.

Does your company have an internship program? What steps are you taking to ensure compliance with government standards?

Random alcohol and drug testing

Two weeks ago, it was ruled that Suncor Energy, Canada’s largest oil producer, is no longer allowed to conduct random drug and alcohol testing on their workers. Unifor filed a grievance back in 2012 against this policy on the grounds that it “violates employees’ privacy, dignity, and human rights.” This month, an independent arbitration panel sided with Unifor, ruling that there is no evidence of an “out-of-control” drug or alcohol culture at Suncor’s sites. Suncor will be appealing the decision. (Source: Reuters)

This is not a first-time debate. Irving Pulp and Paper faced a legal battle when the union challenged the “without-case” aspect of their alcohol testing policy. In the end, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the labour board which found that the mill did not have a serious safety problem associated with alcohol, and therefore did not have reasonable grounds for testing.


As an HR professional, it’s important to keep up to date with what is going on in the news and understand the implications these legal cases and government decisions can have on the way you manage your workplace.

Follow me

Clear Path Employer Services

Certified HR consultants and medical professionals at Clear Path Employer Services
Clear Path Employer Services is a team of certified HR consultants and medical professionals dedicated to resolving the human resources and claims management challenges facing businesses across Ontario. The company was founded in 2003 by Anna Aceto-Guerin, a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) specializing in WSIB claims management and NEER cost containment, with a focus on return-to-work programs and acquiring SIEF cost relief for employers. Read more
Follow me

Latest posts by Clear Path Employer Services (see all)

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are currently closed.