Sometimes employers ask
questions that violate the Human Rights legislation relating to employment. It
is important to understand that Human Rights legislation exists at both the
federal and provincial levels, and is not necessarily consistent across all
provinces. Which legislation an employer falls under depends on the nature of
the company. For example, working at a local biological research laboratory may
fall under provincial jurisdiction while a nuclear research facility would fall
under federal. To verify which law an employer would fall under, or for more
information, you can:
- contact Student
Employment Services, or
- contact either the
Manitoba Human Rights Commission at (204) 945-3007 or the Canadian Human
Rights Commission at (204) 983-2189
Often, employers may
not be aware that they are breaking the law, thinking that they are simply
making conversation. You have every right to refuse to answer an illegal
question, but be aware that if you do refuse to answer in a confrontational
manner, it may have an impact on the interviewer's impression of you.
There are many illegal
questions that an employer might ask. Protected subjects include: race,
religion, age, marital status, gender (including pregnancy), sexual orientation,
family status, national or ethnic origin, handicap or disability. Examples of
some of these are:
is your maiden name?"
your spouse subject to transfer?"
religious holidays will you be unable to work?"
you planning to have children?"
did you learn to speak English?"
me about the health problems you have had in the past."
were you born?"
Some options in responding include:
1) Attempt to address the
issue that the employer is likely concerned with
you have children?"
you're concerned about the overtime, that won't be a problem for me, my
family life has never interfered with my ability to do a job."
2) 'Bounce' the question back at the employer
old are you anyway?"
you concerned that I may not have enough experience?"
3) Ask the employer directly to explain the question's relevance
you born in Canada?"
might that relate this job?"
How you handle these types of
questions is really a personal decision. Some people might feel comfortable
answering; others may not. Many people find it best to "work around"
the question, as with the afore-mentioned options.
For students applying
for employment outside of Canada, remember that the legality of enquiries made
by potential employers varies greatly throughout the world.