Illegal Interview Questions

Employers can hire a job applicant according to their personal preferences. However, when it comes to asking questions during the job interview, they should be more careful. In this blog, we will explore the topic of illegal questions during a job interview. Employers should avoid raising any personal questions that could be interpreted as discriminatory, such as “Are you married? Do you have any children? Where do you come from?”. These questions are considered inappropriate and prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act or provincial human rights legislation.

According to the Canadian federal and provincial human rights legislation, employers should refrain from asking candidates any person questions in connection to

  • Age
  • Colour
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race
  • National or ethnic origin
  • Citizenship
  • Marital or family status
  • Religion, or creed
  • Mental or physical disability
  • Pardoned offences
  • Receipt of Public Assistance

Employers should familiarize themselves with the prohibited grounds of discrimination in the relevant human rights legislation. They should focus on asking questions that aims to reveal a job applicant’s potential to perform job duties well rather than probing into these personal questions that may be construed as discriminatory.

 Case in Point-Kartuzova v HMA Pharmacy Ltd

In the decision of Kartuzova v HMA Pharmacy Ltd., 2012 HRTO, 328, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that asking a job applicant personal questions such as family, marital status, financial situation and how she came to Canada could amount to discrimination and thus violate the Human Rights Code.

In this case, Ms. Kartuzova applied for a position as a pharmacy technician. She was asked by the employer these personal questions during the interview, which she felt pressured to answer. The interview ended abruptly and she did not get the job. The Tribunal noted that this behaviour runs contrary to section 5 of the Code, which reads that every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination. It ordered the employer to pay Ms. Kartuzova $496.13 as monetary compensation for lost income and $4,000 for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect.

Take Away for Job Applicants

If you are a job applicant who come across these personal questions during the interview, you could choose to deflect these questions or even refuse to answer them.  If you perceive that these questions are ill intended and reveal the employer’s discriminatory hiring policy, it is advisable for you to consult a lawyer for legal advice, once you decide to pursue further actions

Take Away for Employers

Employers should create a hiring process that aims to assess each candidate’s ability to perform essential job duties. They should structure interviews in a way that promotes diversity and focus on objective criteria. Employers could use multi-person panels to conduct interviews and acquaint its staff with discriminatory grounds so that these questions would not pop up during the interview. Besides, they should ask all job applicants the same questions during the interview process to maintain fairness.

Whether you are a job applicant or an employer, top Toronto employment lawyer Stacey Ball can help you explore your legal options if you have any questions regarding illegal interview questions during hiring process. Please contact our office at 416-921-7997 extension 227.