A NEW LOOK AT WORKPLACE LAW AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF AN EMPLOYMENT LAWYER AND FORMER JOURNALIST. FIT FOR EMPLOYERS, EMPLOYEES, AND EVERYONE IN BETWEEN

"What do you say to that?" The word 'discrimination' comes to mind

"What do you say to that?" The word 'discrimination' comes to mind

It is needless to say trite law (or well-established) that employers cannot discriminate in their hiring based on characteristics such as race, religion, etc. There are actually a large number of characteristics in Ontario, to be discussed later. 

Author: NY (from Creative Commons)

Author: NY (from Creative Commons)

However, as CBC reported recently, this may not be evident to all hiring managers. When Jama Hagi-Yusuf, a University of Waterloo science grad, applied for a job recently, he received the following reply via e-mail:

"I have read stories about how Somalia has a culture of resistance to authority. Such a culture would be quite different than the Canadian culture sees makes cutting ahead in a lineup as a great social error.
"The investment industry is a subculture with its own rules and traditions. It is normal for people to train for entry into this field. While your academic career suggests the training would be well within your competence, there is no demonstrated enthusiasm in past experience for entering this subculture.
"Due to lack of background, I must decline your application.
"Good luck with finding a suitable position."

Hagi-Yusuf, who was born in Toronto to Somali parents, has said that he is proud of his Somali heritage, and that his family has worked hard as refugees to establish themselves in Canada. In his response to the CBC, the employer who wrote the e-mail had explained that he was trying to provide constructive feedback, and re-shape Hagi-Yusuf's understanding of business culture in that particular field. For his part, the employer has said he did not know Hagi-Yusuf was even Somali.

Clearly, as misguided as the employer may have been, citing one's nationality or place of origin in either a job posting or in the hiring process is not just a faux-pas, but also likely a violation of human rights legislation. In Ontario, the Human Rights Code  lists a number of 'enumerated' protected grounds that cannot be discriminated against in employment. Section 5(1) of the Code reads as follows:

Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to employment without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status or disability.

A violation of this section, such as the incident outlined above, is likely to lead to a complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal, or could be named within a civil action as well. For employers, these matters can be costly and take a great deal of time and resources to resolve, when they are in fact highly avoidable with good legal advice from an employment lawyer. 

For employees, if you have been discriminated at in employment, whether at work or in the hiring process, there are resources available to help you. While an employment lawyer can guide you through how to deal with these incidents, it is important to know that the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is a direct access tribunal, which means that an individual can make a complaint directly to the tribunal without the need for legal representation. Self-represented individuals can also pursue matters civilly, but the Tribunal system is designed specifically to facilitate easy access for unrepresented individuals, which means they are not restricted in any way from pursuing this type of claim. 

The bottom line here is - as long as the candidate is legal to work in Canada, criteria such as race, religion, place of origin, nationality etc should have absolutely no bearing on one's consideration for a job! 

 

 

Can common sense be caught? Not if you're fired for playing Pokemon

Can common sense be caught? Not if you're fired for playing Pokemon

Setting Things Right: The Court of Appeal Boosts Damages to Almost $250,000

Setting Things Right: The Court of Appeal Boosts Damages to Almost $250,000