What questions am I not allowed to ask during a job interview?

When hiring an employee, employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of any of the grounds protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”).  The grounds protected by the Code are race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, record of offences, marital status, family status, or disability. That means, when interviewing an applicant, employers should not ask questions based on these grounds.  For example, an employer should not ask questions such as:

  • Do you have children?
  • Are you married?
  • How old are you?
  • Where were you born?
  • What is your religion?
  • What is your ethnicity?
  • Do you have any health issues?
  • Have you ever spent time in jail?

Employers need to be careful that their interview questions will get them the specific information they seek without accidently going into Code protected grounds. For example, an employer should not ask about an applicant’s citizenship status, but instead can ask the applicant whether they are legally permitted to work in Canada.

There can be exceptions where it is allowable for an employer to ask questions based upon Code protected grounds, such as when the employer is a “special interest organization” under the Code and there are legitimate reasons for screening candidates on a specific Code protected ground.  For example, if an employer is a women’s domestic abuse shelter, the nature of that work may make it reasonable and legitimate to screen candidates based upon gender for certain roles within the organization. Another example would be employers that operate in a vulnerable sector (such as childcare, for example) and which are permitted to request criminal checks from prospective candidates.