The Canadian Human Rights Act entitles all individuals to equal employment opportunities without regard to race or colour, national or ethnic origin, religion, age, family or marital status, sex (including pregnancy or childbirth), pardoned conviction, disability (either physical or mental or as the result of dependence on alcohol or drugs), or sexual orientation.
Section 8 of the Act states that:
It is a discriminatory practice
(a) to use or circulate any form of application for employment, or
(b) in connection with employment or prospective employment, to publish any advertisement, or make any written or oral inquiry
that expresses or implies any limitation, specification or preference based on a prohibited ground of discrimination.
The Act covers employment under federal jurisdiction.
Included are federal government departments and agencies, Crown corporations, airlines, banks, railways, interprovincial pipelines, radio,
television and telephone companies, and transport companies that do business in more than one province.
BONA FIDE Occupational Requirements
When a person's disability, gender or other protected attribute prevents him or her from performing a job's
essential duties, then it is not discriminatory to refuse to employ that person.
For example, a job may require a certain level of colour vision in order to be performed safely and efficiently,
thereby precluding from consideration a person who does not meet this standard.
A particular skill or qualification can be specified if the preference is based on a bona fide occupational requirement.
However, before judging whether a person can perform the essential requirements of a position,
steps must be taken to ensure that all barriers to participation for people protected under human rights law are eliminated from selection,
training and promotion standards and practices.
Employers must make sure that they build accommodation into their policies and practices as far as possible,
and up to the point of undue hardship. This will include consideration of alternative approaches to do a job so that restrictive requirements can be eliminated.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission has detailed materials available to explain the application of bona fide occupational requirements if you think that jobs in your organization are affected.
Special Programs and Employment Equity
The Canadian Human Rights Act allows for special programs designed to improve opportunities for groups that have been traditionally disadvantaged because of race,
ethnic origin, age, sex, disability or other prohibited grounds of discrimination.
As well, the Canadian Human Rights Commission audits employers and takes necessary action to ensure they comply with the Employment Equity Act, which is designed to improve job opportunities for four specific groups' women, Aboriginal people, members of visible minorities, and people with disabilities. Many employers have found special programs helpful in achieving equality in the workplace.
Commission policy permits employers to collect the data they require to plan and support special programs, even though the information collected may touch upon one of the prohibited grounds.
However, in the event of a complaint, the employer must be able to show that the data collected have not been used to discriminate, either in the hiring process or later when deciding promotion opportunities.