Four Human Right Issues That Commonly Occur During Interviews
The hiring process today is as complex as it has ever been. At the same time, it is also the most open. The labour code we have today isn’t perfect, but it is the result of decades of people fighting for their rights and against discrimination of different kinds. As society continues to march toward greater inclusivity, it is important to be mindful of that and to tailor your hiring practices accordingly. Failure to do so could land not just your HR department but your entire company in legal hot water requiring employment lawyers. Even if a suit doesn’t cost you money, it could severely and perhaps irreparably damage your public image. You naturally don’t want that to happen, which is why you’ll want to be mindful of what to avoid when interviewing candidates.
- Hiring Agencies to Search for Illegal Preferences
You probably already know that it is illegal to ask prospective candidates questions about their race, sex, orientation, religion, or political affiliation. It is also illegal to have hiring agencies do this for you – or otherwise try and tailor your candidate pool according to these qualities.
For example, it is illegal to tell a hiring agency that you only want them to look for waiter and waitress applicants of a certain race because you want to “maintain a consistent image” in your company. That kind of coded racism is not acceptable in 2021. Even if you personally do not see it as such, it is still received and functions that way in society, and constitutes an illegal hiring practice. That, in turn, could be construed as a violation of excluded candidates’ rights.
What’s more, if news of that gets out, the “image” of your company will only be consistent insofar as it will be tarnished, so avoid this type of coded discrimination-from-a-distance.
- Falling Back on Stereotypes
You would think people would know better by now, but the amount of companies and individuals who fall back on lazy and offensive stereotyping is staggering. Doing so can land you in serious legal trouble when it is part of your hiring process.
You cannot exclude women from certain fields because you do not believe the job is “women’s work,” for example. That kind of thinking is sexist, and incorporating it into your hiring practices means violating women’s right to equality – and is thus practically begging for a lawsuit.
You’ll thus also want to steer clear of stereotypical or otherwise offensive comments during the hiring process. One of the biggest ways this seeps into companies today is via “jokes” that aren’t really jokes.
Maybe you think you’re the best comedian in the world, but sexist jokes about women, racist jokes about various groups, or jokes about events such as the Holocaust are extremely inappropriate.
Stereotyping candidates is also wrong and can thus also get you nailed for improper hiring practices even if you think the stereotypes being employed are “positive” or “a compliment.”
Hiring a woman because you think she “looks good” or Asian or Jewish candidates because they’re “good with numbers” is, once again, falling back on lazy and extremely offensive stereotypes.
You must avoid all of the above, lest you fall afoul of Canada’s hiring and employment laws. Failure to do so can mean being sued, which will mean needing to seek assistance from employment lawyers, which in turn means greater expenditures for your company.
- Not Providing Reasonable Accommodations
If a candidate asks for a reasonable accommodation, you are under a legal obligation to provide it, and cannot exclude a qualified candidate solely on the basis of that point.
For example, you cannot exclude a Muslim woman wearing a hijab who is as qualified as every other candidate for the position in question simply because of her cultural headwear.
This can also apply to cases where physical accommodations need to be provided. For example, if you have a candidate in a wheelchair, you cannot exclude them on the basis of them being in a wheelchair.
- Getting Too Personal
You shouldn’t be asking a candidate about their religion, anyway. There is a limit to how personal you can get with a candidate when interviewing them.
Aside from (hopefully) obvious points such as not being able to ask candidates for sexual favors, this also means you cannot ask candidates about their religious or political views. If you are interviewing a woman, it is not permissible to ask her if she is, will be, or plans to be pregnant or have a family.
The last thing you want to do is violate a candidate’s human rights and put your own company in hot water in the process. It is thus essential to talk to employment law experts to ensure that your hiring practices are fair, legal, transparent, and as inclusive as possible.