Are you married? How old are you? How’s your health? Have you ever been arrested? What country are you from? Do you like to drink?
These are probably not questions you want to be asked by someone you barely know, let alone by someone determining your future employment. These prying inquiries may be a faux-pas in polite conversation but they are an absolute no-go in the context of a job interview.
Illegal Interview Questions
Sometimes, versions of these questions may come up casually and innocently in the context of a job interview as employers want to make sure that you will also be a good fit for the company. However, Canadian human rights law prohibits interviewers to ask questions concerning:
- Country/place of origin and citizenship status
- Religion, faith or creed
- Gender or sexual orientation
- Race or ethnicity
- Family structure, children or marital status
- Mental or physical health and disability
- Appearance, height and weight
- Pardoned offences
With very limited exceptions, it is forbidden to ask questions about any of these topics at any point in the hiring process. Questions should only seek information relevant to the candidate’s ability to perform the job for which they are applying.
How To Deal With Illegal Questions During An Interview
In interviews, passing references to some of these topics may come up – “sorry to delay, my kid is sick and was on the phone, you got kids?”
It is also regrettably possible that an interviewer may make glaringly inappropriate inquiries – “We’re looking for someone committed, do you plan on having children in the future?”
It is up to you to decide in that moment how you want to deal with the situation. Depending on the circumstances, you might not want to stop the interview in its tracks and instead decide to deflect or even directly answer the question. Some options when confronted with this situation are:
- “My [family status/country of origin etc.] does not affect my ability to perform this job.”
- “I’d prefer not to answer this question unless there is a particular reason why it is relevant.”
- “Can you please explain to me how this is applicable to my performance of the job?”
The trouble with certain inappropriate questions is that, even if they were asked in passing and without mal-intent, they leave open the question of what role your answers to them played in the hiring process.
Kartuzova v HMA Pharmacy Ltd.
According to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (OHRT), simply asking improper questions is enough to prove discrimination. Such was the case with Kartuzova v HMA Pharmacy Ltd. In this case, Kartuzova applied for a position as a pharmacy technician and was denied the job after an interview ended suddenly following questions about her family and marital status, financial situation, and how she came to Canada. Kartuzova said she had felt obligated to answer these questions and that the tone of what had otherwise been a very positive interview changed abruptly following her answers. The OHRT ruled that the questions Kartuzova had been asked were in violation of the Human Rights Code and ordered the pharmacy to pay her $4,000 for loss of dignity and $496.13 for lost wages.
Employment Law Experts
If you have been asked inappropriate or discriminatory questions during an interview that you felt affected your employment offer, KCY at LAW can help you to register a claim with the OHRT to seek compensation for your lost opportunity. Call us at (905) 639-0999 or reach us online to book your consultation.