The Human Rights Tribunal sentences a company for a discussion of a work applicant's religion during an employment interview

April 19, 2011

The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal has ordered a company to pay moral damages to a rejected work applicant to whom questions related to his religion were asked during an employment interview. The reason the work applicant was not hired was because he did not have enough relevant experience. In the decision, Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse c. Systématix Technologies de l'information inc. (November 26, 2010), the Tribunal discussed whether questions asked to the work applicant, such as "Are you a Muslim?" or "Do you practice your religion?", violated section 18.1 of the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. In the analysis, the Tribunal determined that emphasis should not be placed on who spoke first about religion, but should rather be placed on assessing the whole of the interview. In the present case, the interviewer had asked several questions related to religion, mostly to discuss religious restrictions that some Muslim work applicants had with regards to working for companies such as Société des Alcools du Québec (Québec Alcohol Corporation) or Loto Québec. The Tribunal came to the conclusion that a reasonable person in the work applicant’s position would have felt compelled to answer the questions related to his religion. Therefore, the fact that the work applicant accepted to answer such questions did not constitute a waiver of his protected right under section 18.1 of the Québec Charter. In the Tribunal's opinion, the fact such questions were asked is sufficient to prove the violation of the work applicant's right, unless the questions had been necessary to evaluate a skill or quality required for employment. The Tribunal also noted that it was prohibited to ask such questions out of curiosity, to break the ice or to lighten the interview process. In this case, the Tribunal ordered the company to pay $ 7 500 in moral damages to the work applicant for the discrimination he suffered. The Tribunal also ordered the company to forward a copy of the decision to the persons in charge of recruiting and to adopt an anti-discrimination policy approved by the Commission des droits de la personne (the Human Rights Commission) to govern the selection process of work applicants in the future.

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