When are employment advertisements deemed discriminatory?

On Behalf of | Nov 23, 2021 | Employment Law |

Publishing employment advertisements in British Columbia is a process that needs careful consideration. Employers might not realize that the wrong choice of words could lead to discrimination allegations. It is against the BC Human Rights Code to publish employment advertisements specifying preferences or limitations related to protected characteristics.

What personal characteristics are protected?

The BC Human Rights Code protects the following personal characteristics from discrimination in employment decisions:

  • Race
  • Colour
  • Religion
  • Ancestry or place of origin
  • Sex or sexual orientation
  • Gender identity or expression
  • Physical disability
  • Mental disability
  • Marital or family status
  • Age
  • Political belief

Examples of discriminatory employment advertisements

To fill a vacancy, a company invites applications from people who are “dynamic and young.” Even though the ad mentions no age requirement, it demonstrates a preference for a specific age group.

An organization advertises a position at a community centre where recent Iranian immigrants receive assistance to adjust to their new lives in British Columbia. The advertisement mentions that applicants must be Farsi-speaking individuals of Persian origin. Such an advertisement can be discriminatory because it excludes non-Iranian applicants.

Requirements for a valid discrimination claim

Anyone who considers filing a claim against a business alleging discrimination must show the following:

  • The existence of an advertisement published inviting applications for prospective employment.
  • The person filing the claim has a personal characteristic protected under the BC Human Rights Code, which deems them ineligible to apply.
  • The ad indicates limitations, preferences or specifications linked to personal characteristics.

Before taking any action, we recommend that you speak with a lawyer to understand your rights and examine whether they have been violated. Contact us to explore your options.

Justification defence

If the complainant proves that an employment advertisement limits or prefers job applicants based on a personal characteristic, the complainant will have a prima facie case of discrimination. The respondent can argue that there is no discrimination because the limitation, specification, or preference is justified (i.e., based on a bona fide occupational requirement).

For example, the job for a Farsi-speaking person would not be suitable for someone who speaks only English. Likewise, the position advertised for a young person might involve activities that could pose risks for older individuals.

Employers who post discriminatory advertisements can face costly legal consequences. Our team’s experience and knowledge of labour and employment law can help you defend allegations of advertising discrimination.



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