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When I apply for a job, what can an employer ask me?

The law says that employers can ask questions about whether you're qualified and able to do the job.

For example, if you need a driver's licence for a delivery job, an employer can ask if you have one. And an employer can ask if you've had other jobs that will help you do the job you're applying for.

What employers should not ask

Employers are not allowed to discriminate for reasons that go against your human rights. This means that, in most cases, employers are not allowed to ask questions like:

  • Do you have children or plan to have children?
  • Are you married?
  • How old are you?
  • Where were you born?
  • What is your ethnic background?
  • Do you have a disability?

If an employer asks you a question they should not ask, you don't have to answer. But if you don't answer, you might not get the job.

If you don't get the job, you might be able to make a human rights claim based on discrimination. See Step 2 below.

Asking about experience in Canada

An employer is not supposed to ask if you have "Canadian experience", unless they can show that you need it to do the job.

For most jobs, it's difficult for an employer to show that work experience in Canada is necessary.

And an employer cannot refuse to hire you only because you don't have experience working in Canada. If this happens, you might be able to make a human rights claim. See Step 2 below. 

But an employer can ask you if you're legally allowed to work in Canada.

Asking about criminal records

There are laws about what employers can ask about criminal records.

An employer can ask if you have been convicted of a crime that you have not been given a record suspension for. A record suspension used to be called a pardon.

If you get a record suspension for a crime that you've been convicted of, in most cases an employer can't ask about that crime and you can honestly say you don't have a criminal record.

An employer might ask you to get a police record check. This includes not only your criminal record but also information about contacts with the police that did not lead to a criminal conviction.

And if you apply for a job that involves working with children, seniors, or others who may be vulnerable, the employer will likely want a "vulnerable sector check".

There's more information about all types of police checks in Can an employer ask me if I have a police record?

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Click to expand each step for details
Next Steps: 

1. Plan how you will answer questions

Some employers ask questions on application forms or in interviews that go against human rights laws. It is a good idea to think about how you might answer these questions.

To help you get ready for an interview, see How do I respond to inappropriate questions in a job interview?

If an employer asks you a question that they should not ask, you can:

  • answer it
  • tell the employer that the law says they can't ask you that
  • refuse to answer

If you refuse to answer, you might not get the job.

And if an employer asks you questions they should not ask and you don't get the job, you might be able to make a human rights claim based on discrimination.

2. Check to see if you should make a human rights claim

If you think an employer discriminated against you by not hiring you, you can get free legal advice and information from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

The Centre can help you figure out:

  • whether to make a claim with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
  • what might help you prove that an employer discriminated against you

The Centre also helps people when they apply to the Tribunal and, in some cases, at the Tribunal.

You can also check out the Centre's online tool Can We Help You? to see if you might be able to make a claim.

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3. Find out if you should make a human rights claim

If you think an employer discriminated against you by not hiring you, you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for free legal advice and information.

The Centre helps people file human rights applications with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and, in some cases, represents people who are making claims at the Tribunal.

You can also check out the Centre's online tool Can We Help You? to see if you might be able to make a claim.

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4. Make a human rights claim

If you think an employer decided not to hire you for a reason that goes against your human rights, you may be able to apply to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

If the Tribunal decides that an employer discriminated against you, there are things it can order the employer to do. For example, the Tribunal could order the employer to:

  • pay you money
  • offer you a job
  • change its hiring practices so they follow human rights laws
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Reviewed: 
June, 2015

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