Have you ever been denied a job interview or a position based on your citizenship status? Some employers have attempted to develop pre-employment requirements and policies to deal with the tension between devoting time and resources to new employees and hiring someone who may be temporary.
A recent decision from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario makes it clear that you cannot be discriminated against when applying for a job position based on your citizenship status. This is provided that you are eligible to work in Canada and that the position you are applying for does not require citizenship as a legal requirement.
Citizenship Status: Permanent, Temporary or Citizen?
In this precedent-setting decision, the Tribunal ruled in favour of an employee alleging discrimination in employment because of the pre-employment requirement that job applicants be able to work in Canada on a “permanent basis”, meaning either being citizen or a permanent resident of Canada.
Permanent residency is provided to individuals who are immigrating to Canada but are not Canadian citizens. Those with permanent residence status in Canada are citizens of other countries. Permanent resident status must be maintained or it can be lost.
A person who is in Canada temporarily is not a permanent resident. This includes foreign workers and international students, as was the situation in the decision below.
After meeting certain residency requirements, permanent residents can apply to become Canadian citizens.
Mr. Haseeb was an international student who graduated with an engineering degree from McGill University. He applied to work for Imperial Oil Ltd during his final semester, while he was on a student visa. Upon graduation, he would become eligible for a postgraduate work permit for a fixed term of 3 years. This permit would allow Mr. Haseeb to work with any employer anywhere in Canada.
When Mr. Haseeb applied to Imperial Oil, he was aware of their policy which required graduate engineers to have either permanent residency or citizenship to be eligible for a permanent and full-time position as a Project Engineer. Mr. Haseeb repeatedly misinformed Imperial Oil throughout the recruitment process that he was eligible to work on a permanent basis in Canada.
He expected to attain permanent residency status within 3 years, after which he could settle and work in Canada indefinitely. However, at the time of recruitment, he lied and stated he met Imperial Oil’s “permanency requirement” when he knew that he did not.
Mr. Haseeb received a conditional offer of employment, with one condition being that he provide proof of his eligibility to work in Canada on a permanent basis. Imperial Oil required proof in the form of a Canadian birth certificate, Canadian citizenship certificate, or a Canadian certificate of permanent residence. Since Mr. Haseeb could not provide such proof, the job offer was revoked.
Imperial Oil unsuccessfully argued that it was Mr. Haseeb’s misrepresentations during recruitment that led to the job offer being revoked. The Tribunal found that Mr. Haseeb’s dishonesty was not relevant in assessing whether the Code was breached. The Tribunal stated that “…“but for” IO’s permanence requirement, the applicant would have no need for a ruse to circumvent the requirement.”
The adjudicator concluded that Imperial Oil’s policy of asking job applicants about their citizenship and immigration status was discriminatory based on the ground of citizenship. The eligibility of job applicants was based on their response to the question about their eligibility to work in Canada on a permanent basis, a requirement that was not necessary and linked to the essential duties of the position. For instance, Imperial Oil had occasionally hired experienced engineers in the past who did not meet their permanency requirement policy but did possess a skill set in high demand.
Further, Imperial Oil was unable to convince the adjudicator that their policy was an employment strategy that directed at grooming the best recruits.
This decision is significant because it clarifies that employers cannot exclude a job applicant based on his or her citizenship status. An employer can ask about your legal ability to work in Canada but the inquiry should stop there. This important clarification can have a positive impact if you have temporary status in Canada because gaining work experience after graduation is an important step on the path to obtaining permanent residency. However, it remains to be seen whether Imperial Oil will appeal this decision.
If you would like more information on discrimination based on your citizenship status and/or your rights in the workplace, you can contact an employment lawyer at MacLeod Law Firm. You can reach us at [email protected] or 647-204-8107.
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