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Recent decision acts as a reminder to employers

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal recently held that it is discriminatory to differentiate against job applicants with valid work-permits, and those candidates who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

In Haseeb v. Imperial Oil Limited, the employee alleged that Imperial Oil’s policy regarding the need for recent graduates to furnish proof of citizenship or permanent-residence status was discriminatory on the grounds of citizenship. Even though Haseeb was granted a three-year postgraduate-work-permit, which permitted him to work in Canada, Haseeb could not meet Imperial Oil’s requirement regarding providing proof of Canadian citizenship or permanent-residence status. In fact, throughout the interview process, Haseeb repeatedly responded “yes”, when asked if he could work in Canada on a permanent basis.

Imperial Oil claimed that Haseeb’s deception during the interview process was one of the reasons behind its decision to rescind its offer of employment. However, Associate Chair Grant of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal noted that the employer’s permanency “requirement amounted to a direct breach of the code when it distinguished among job candidates who were eligible to work in Canada on the basis of citizenship and create categories of “eligible” and “ineligible” for progressing through screening process” (2018 HRTO 957 (CanLII), para 11). Further, the Tribunal noted that ‘but for’ the company’s discriminatory policy, Haseeb would have no need for a ruse to circumvent the requirement.

This decision does not mean that employers should abandon the practice of requiring new hires to provide proof of eligibility to work in Canada. Rather, this recent decision acts as a reminder that employers cannot establish policies which formally and/or adversely discriminate against individuals who are legally authorized to work in Canada based on their citizenship status.