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Starbucks and Discriminatory Application Form

While waiting for my coffee the other day, I scooped up a job application form sitting on the counter at Starbucks.  Apparently, they are hiring “baristas’.  The application form says, “Starbucks is dedicated to a policy of non-discrimination in employment”.  So  I thought it would be fun to play a game called, “identify the illegal questions in Starbucks application form.” Here are some of the questions.

Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense for which a pardon has not been granted?

That’s good.  Since you are allowed to discriminate against people (in Ontario) who have been convicted of criminal offense for which they have not be granted a pardon, this question is probably ok.

Are you legally entitled to work in Canada?

again, looks good.  Since employers can require applicants to be legally entitled to work in Canada, they can ask this question.

Are you able to work overtime?

Hmmm.  Now we are getting dangerously close to violating the Human Rights Code.  Can anyone think why that might be the case?  Hint:  look at s. 23(2) of the Code.  That section bans discriminatory job applications, which includes questions on those applications that discriminate directly or indirectly against potential applicants.  Is there any way that a question asking about the ability to work ‘overtime’ might tend to discriminate indirectly against someone on a prohibited ground?

Name and Address of High School

Ok, now this is a problem, isn’t it?  Is it possible the name and address of my grade 9 school might say something about where I’m from?  And what religion I am.  If I attended a high school in Nigeria, might that suggest to Starbucks that my “nationality” is Nigerian, or that my “ethnic origin” or “ancestry” is Nigerian?  If I attended St. Michael’s High School or the Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy, might that suggest to Starbucks something about my religion?

Starbucks can ask whether the applicant completed high school (obtained a diploma), but asking the name of the high school and the address is something different.  And why does it matter, anyways?  Does the name and address of my high school determine my potential to whip frothy milk?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission summary of the law of hiring states, under its heading of questions that it is illegal to ask on an application form, includes:  ”Questions about the name and location of schools attended.”

So, Starbucks, maybe you need to try a wee bit harder in your dedication to human rights principles, huh?


4 Responses to Starbucks and Discriminatory Application Form

  1. Ryan Reply

    September 23, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    Re: “overtime” – that sounds like it’d tread all over the prohibited ground of ‘Family Status’. At least it didn’t say something like, “By signing here you hereby agree to employment at the will of Starbucks”!

  2. sam Reply

    September 24, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    “Are you able to work overtime” it could be a question that discrimination on employee’ creed.

  3. John Edwards Reply

    November 24, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Or it could just be that … (a) SB is a casual-labour type of place; (b) its employees have other schedules and lives outside the workplace and may not always show up when they’re scheduled to show up, meaning (c) that employees who do show up may be asked to work overtime to fill in for someone who doesn’t show up, and all things being equal, (d) SB would like to hire people who are able to do overtime from time to time. Or would that be indirectly discriminatory? And, if so, on what basis? Doesn’t there have to be a connection between the prohibited ground and the alleged discrimination? Not all people who are in a family are unable to work overtime. Not all people who have a physical disability are unable to work overtime. So where is the discrimination?

  4. admin Reply

    November 24, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    There is a connection between the prohibited ground and the discrimination: People who have childcare responsibilities are less likely to be able to work overtime. Therefore, if employers can select those applicants who are most willing to work overtime when asked, people who can’t work overtime because they have children would be weeded out on the basis of their ‘family status’, wouldn’t they? The Human Rights Code tries to prevent that weeding out from occurring.

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