A student of mine gave me a job application form from a company called Coach, an American company wit stores in Toronto and some other Canadian cities. It apparently sells purses, shoes, and various accessories. Like our good friends at Starbucks, Coach is not very knowledgeable of Canadian human rights laws as they apply to the recruitment process. Like Starbucks, Coach claims to be an ‘equal opportunity’ employer that hires “without regard to race, sex, national origin, color, age, disability, veteran status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion or any other basis prohibited by applicable law”.
So, let’s play my favorite game: Find the illegal questions and requirements:
1. Have you been convicted of a felony crime or theft-related misdemeanor in the last 5 years? If yes, give details.
Strike One: It is unlawful to ask whether someone has been convicted of a crime, unless you a lso add “for which a pardon has not been granted”. That’s because the Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of ‘record of offense’ if the person has received a pardon.
2. Provide your social insurance number.
Strike Two: This could disclose national origin or citizenship.
3. Provide the name and address of your high school.
Strike Three: For the same reasons I described in my Starbucks posting, an employer cannot ask applicants where they went to high school. It tends to disclose national origin.
4. You agree that Coach can conduct personal interviews with “friends, neighbours, schools, landlords, financial institutions, friends about your ‘character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living”
Are you kidding me! This is a job working as a retail clerk, right? Beyond the general offensiveness of an employer dispatching managers to interrogate friends and neighbours about the ‘general character’ of applicants, what do you think they mean by ‘mode of living’? What if this snooping leads the employer to learn that the applicant is living with someone of the same sex, for example, or is married (or not married), or has children (or doesn’t). Sending someone to ask neighbours questions that the employer could not ask the applicant personally does not avoid the Human Rights Code.
Of course, what is happening in this Coach application form is that the company is simply using its American forms for Canadian recruitment. This shows an extreme lack of respect for the laws of the host country, and for all applicants who might be asked to complete this illegal form.
Finally, the Coach application form also grants Coach the right to complete extensive credit searches of applicants. Do you think employers should be permitted to do this? Check out this useful discussion of employee privacy issues by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.
Please send me any other illegal application forms you come across.