On the surface, hiring is a straightforward process. You post a job, evaluate candidates, conduct interviews, choose one, check their references, make the offer. In reality, the hiring process is filled with potential legal landmines. Canadian workers are protected from workplace discrimination starting with the hiring process. Failing to walk the line could open your organization to accusations of discriminatory hiring practices – even if the discrimination was unintentional.
Here are four areas to pay close attention to during the hiring process.
It’s easy to crank out a job posting without much consideration to legal issues. However, you cannot refer to protected classes by directly addressing or making inferences about race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political beliefs, religion, marital status, family status, disabilities (physical or mental), sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or age. It’s best to stick to the exact responsibilities associated with the job and the required skills, experience, and education you’re looking for in a candidate.
This is another area that can be tricky. If you’re rolling along having a great conversation with a candidate during an interview, it’s easy to unintentionally discuss things that could put you in legal hot water.
Make sure to draft a list of questions ahead of time and familiarize yourself with topics and questions that are off-limits. The same prohibited references in job postings apply in job interviews. Even if you’re just trying to gauge whether someone can work on Saturdays or Sundays, it’s never ok to ask about their religion, for example. Stick to general questions like, “This job requires some weekend work. Are you available for these shifts?”
Similarly, during the reference check phase you can’t ask questions about a candidate’s personal life, disabilities, medical history, family status, etc. Even if you need to make an assessment about a candidate’s reliability, you cannot ask a reference, “how many sick days did they take last year,” or “how many times did they call off for family issues,” for example. What you can do is ask if they were a punctual, reliable employee.
The final step in the hiring process is also rife with areas for potential legal mistakes. It is important to offer fair and comparable wages and when wages are different between genders, ages, races, etc., you must be able to prove that the disparity is based on skills, responsibilities, union seniority systems, merit systems and other objective factors.
The Simple Way To Reduce Legal Liability in The Hiring Process
Fairness is the name of the game throughout the hiring process. Familiarize yourself with prohibited topics and make sure to keep all communication – both verbal and written – on the right side of the law. However, because the process can be so complex and because it is very easy to make mistakes, it pays to partner with a staffing expert. A staffing partner handles the sourcing, evaluation, matching and initial screening of employees, paying close attention to legal compliance.