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Employment discrimination during the hiring phase

Workplace discrimination can take many different forms and can be based on a variety of prohibited grounds including race, gender and religion. While many who experience discrimination in employment are actually employed when it happens, that is not a prerequisite. It is possible that someone seeking employment might be denied a job for discriminatory reasons and if so, the person may decide to file a human rights complaint. 

A case recently decided by a British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal illustrates this scenario.

In 2014, a woman who graduated from a Christian university, applied for a position with a wilderness corporation based in Norway. After applying, the woman received a response from a wilderness guide employed by the company, which among other things, told her she was not qualified for the position. In addition, the email specifically took issue with some of the Christian beliefs espoused by the school from which she graduated.

After further exchange between the parties, the woman filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal against the wilderness guide and his employer.

While the Tribunal determined the woman was in fact not qualified for the position she applied for, it also found that the emails the wilderness corporation's staff sent constituted "egregious" religious harassment and that religious discrimination played a role in her not being hired. As a result of these findings, the wilderness group was ordered to stop engaging in discriminatory activities. In addition, it was instructed to pay the woman a total of $9,161.08, for injury to her self-respect and dignity and various other expenses.

An employment lawyer can help craft policies for businesses regarding the prevention of discrimination in the workplace. Educating and training employees on human rights obligations can assist employers in preventing risk of human rights complaints, including those based on alleged discrimination at the time of hire.

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