All jobs include certain duties that are key requirements of the position and are essential to the performance of the job.
Information contained in job advertisements needs to clearly describe the key duties or requirements of the position. It is acceptable for an employment advertisement or job description to set out details about the key requirements of the position so that applicants have enough information to assess their own suitability for the position.
Where an advertisement or job description describes requirements or duties that express any limitation, specification or preference indicating discrimination based on a protected ground, an employer must ensure that the requirements or duties are based on a bona fide occupational requirement. Discriminatory elements or wording not based on a bona fide occupational requirement need to be removed from the job description or advertisement.
For example, if an employer needs an employee with knowledge about a specific country, it would be preferable if the job advertisement did not limit applications to candidates who are from that country. It is preferable for the advertisement to express a preference for candidates with knowledge of the country.
Requirements of a position should not discriminate on the basis of race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status or sexual orientation. Job advertisements that directly or indirectly discriminate on the basis of one these protected grounds are prohibited under the Alberta Human Rights Act unless the employer can demonstrate that the advertisement is based on a bona fide occupational requirement. Employers should carefully examine position requirements to ensure that application forms, advertisements and position requirements are bona fide. "Bona fide" means "good faith." Should a qualification or requirement prevent or discourage a person from applying for a position for reasons related to a protected ground, a candidate may make a human rights complaint. The employer must then demonstrate that the qualifications or requirements are bona fide.
Often a media outlet such as a newspaper will assess the language of an advertisement before deciding whether to accept it. This is done in order to prevent possible human rights complaints against the media outlet. Even if a media outlet prints an advertisement, employers are still responsible for ensuring that the advertisement meets the requirements of the Act.
For more information, see the Commission's information sheets Pre-employment inquiries and A recommended guide for pre-employment inquiries.
Revised: December 16, 2009
The Alberta Human Rights Commission is an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.
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