Illegal Questions

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Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (LRC)
For example, section 8(1) of Alberta's Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act is typical of most provincial human rights legislation in this regard. It reads: "No person shall use or circulate any form of application for employment or publish any advertisement in connection with employment or prospective employment or make any written or oral inquiry of an applicant ...that expresses ... any limitation, specification or preference ... or that requires an applicant to furnish any information concerning race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status of that person or of any other person." The theory in barring employer inquiries is that if the employer cannot ask the employee about these attributes, it will possess no knowledge of them and, accordingly, it cannot illegally discriminate by considering them. Even informal banter over dinner about an applicant's marital partner, children, and age is ill-advised. Inquiries about what an applicant did in previous jobs should reflect more on qualifications than on age. One should be careful about stereotypes about another's religious practices to avoid such assertions as, "We are a very collegial group. Often we eat out together, but you wouldn't be able to do that." Or "the fitness centre is excellent, but I don't suppose you would go there." Job interviews might be conducted with the applicant behind a screen so that the interviewer could not see what the applicant looks like. This would prevent a visual observation of such characteristics as the applicant's age, race, disability unrelated to performance, and gender. Even then, the applicant's voice would likely betray the applicant's gender and age. The screen would hinder visual observation of the applicant's grooming, dress, and demeanour, which are legitimate hiring decision factors.
Bowal Peter and Brierton Thomas D., "Illegal Questions", Law Now, Sep/Oct 2007, Vol. 32, Iss. 1; p. 45.