Applying for work

Section 8(1) of the Alberta Human Rights Act (AHR Act) prohibits discrimination based on a protected ground in the area of employment application and advertisements and in the making of written or oral inquiries of job applicants. This means that employers cannot discriminate against job applicants based on their race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation.

Employers are required to ensure that applications, advertisements, and inquiries focus on the ability of an applicant to do a job rather than preferences or requirements that relate to a protected ground. The AHR Act prohibits discrimination through:

  • the use or circulation of employment applications or advertisements or
  • inquires, including interview questions,

that directly or indirectly express any limitation, specification, or preference indicating discrimination based on a protected ground or that require an applicant to furnish information concerning the protected grounds of that person or of any other person.

Most employment positions have key duties. It is the employer's role to decide the key duties of a job. Where a qualification or requirement being used in the hiring process prevents or discourages a person from applying for a position for reasons related to a protected ground, the employer must demonstrate that the qualifications or requirements are necessary to perform the key duties of the position as a bona fide occupational requirement.

For example, if an employer requires applicants to be able to lift heavy weights, the employer must show that this ability is a bona fide occupational requirement. In making this assessment, consideration needs to be given to possible modifications of the duty, including through the availability of assistive devices such as hoists and other lifting systems. This would be important to an applicant whose ability to lift is restricted because of a disability such as a permanent shoulder injury.

Similarly, if an employer requires a male aid for a male patient in a healthcare setting, the employer must be able to show that being male is a bona fide occupational requirement. This would be important to a female nurse applying for a position in a long-term care facility.

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Revised: February 5, 2010


Our vision is a vibrant and inclusive Alberta where the rich diversity of people is celebrated and respected, and where everyone has the opportunity to fully participate in society, free from discrimination.