A Toronto web design company recently published a job posting for a writing job indicating that “female candidates are preferred”, seemingly time-warping back to the Mad Men era… Specifically, the position was for a content writer and search-engine optimization specialist on LinkedIn. However, the posting also indicated that the successful candidate will need to fulfill the “responsibilities of a receptionist, so female candidates are preferred.”
Not surprisingly, the job posting has attracted negative attention on twitter and news outlets have picked up the story. The company responded on Twitter and LinkedIn by stating that they “did not mean to discriminate against any particular gender or group in [the] job ad. We believe in promoting diversity.” However, it appears that the damage was already done.
In addition to the danger of criticism on social media and in the media, employers should be aware that such job postings could lead to violations of the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”). Under section 23(1) of the Code an employer will infringe on the right to equal treatment in employment when a job posting or advertisement directly or indirectly classifies or indicates qualifications by a prohibited ground of discrimination.
For example, employers should generally avoid making any statements, qualifications, or references that directly or indirectly relate to the sex of a potential candidate. When setting job requirements, employers must be careful to avoid erecting barriers based on Code grounds. When determining what is required for a new job, employers should ensure that the requirements are bona fide and not based on stereotypical assumptions linked to Code grounds (disability, race, or sex).
While society has progressed significantly on this issue in recent years, there is clearly more progress to make.