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COACH: Another Human Rights Violator

A student of mine gave me a job application form from a company called Coach, an American company wit stores in Toronto and some other Canadian cities.  It apparently sells purses, shoes, and various accessories.  Like our good friends at Starbucks, Coach is not very knowledgeable of Canadian human rights laws as they apply to the recruitment process.  Like Starbucks, Coach claims to be an ‘equal opportunity’ employer that hires “without regard to race, sex, national origin, color, age, disability, veteran status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, religion or any other basis prohibited by applicable law”.

So, let’s play my favorite game:  Find the illegal questions and requirements:

1.  Have you been convicted of a felony crime or theft-related misdemeanor in the last 5 years?  If yes, give details.


Strike One:   It is unlawful to ask whether someone has been convicted of a crime, unless you a lso add “for which a pardon has not been granted”.  That’s because the Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of ‘record of offense’ if the person has received a pardon.

2.  Provide your social insurance number.

Strike Two:   This could disclose national origin or citizenship.

3.  Provide the name and address of your high school.

Strike Three:  For the same reasons I described in my Starbucks posting, an employer cannot ask applicants where they went to high school.   It tends to disclose national origin.  

4.   You agree that Coach can conduct personal interviews with “friends, neighbours, schools, landlords, financial institutions, friends about your ‘character, general reputation, personal characteristics, or mode of living”

Are you kidding me!  This is a job working as a retail clerk, right?  Beyond the general offensiveness of an employer dispatching managers to interrogate friends and neighbours about the ‘general character’ of applicants, what do you think they mean by ‘mode of living’?  What if this snooping leads the employer to learn that the applicant is living with someone of the same sex, for example, or is married (or not married), or has children (or doesn’t).   Sending someone to ask neighbours  questions that the employer could not ask the applicant personally does not avoid the Human Rights Code.  

Of course, what is happening in this Coach application form is that the company is simply using its American forms for Canadian recruitment.  This shows an extreme lack of respect for the laws of the host country, and for all applicants who might be asked to complete this illegal form.

Finally, the Coach application form also grants Coach the right to complete extensive credit searches of applicants.   Do you think employers should be permitted to do this?   Check out this useful discussion of employee privacy issues by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.

Please send me any other illegal application forms you come across.  

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5 Responses to COACH: Another Human Rights Violator

  1. Donna Seale Reply

    November 21, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    This is a great post. And congratulations to your student for recognizing the problems with the application! It’s amazing how many US companies that make inroads into the Canadian market fail to check their US policies at the proverbial door before they start operating here. Canadian human rights legislation is quite different from that which exists in the US, as you’ve pointed out. Why don’t they get that? Perhaps when more students like yours, educated about what the law says, bring it to their attention, they’ll get it right.

  2. admin Reply

    November 21, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    Thanks Donna.

  3. Alex Reply

    November 24, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I wonder if COACH’s other international operations use the same application forms. I think that due to the similarities between American and Canadian culture, maybe COACH was too absent minded to realize that our laws differ from American laws.

  4. Catherine Reply

    November 26, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Wow, that’s ridiculous. I wonder if COACH’s Canadian stores have actually pursued these “personal interviews” with friends/neighbours, or if that really only happens in the US. Wouldn’t this bring Coach into a lot more trouble?

  5. Karen De Pratto Reply

    August 6, 2009 at 1:21 am

    It is the sad truth about ignorance of some employers. My employer, Wal Mart is with holding my record of hours worked from unemployment insurance. They will not release them to unemployment until I fill out a request for leave of absence form, which is a policy of theres. So, I get no benefits, if no record of hours worked is recieved by my employer. Number One, I gave them a doctors note, which my doctor took me off work, I did not asked to be off work. I was only there to get blood pressure med. repeats. You see I am mentally stressed, and Wal Mart is adding to my stress. I have one daughter, and one grandson. Over the course of six months, my 80 pound daughter of thirty six years of age, has a brain tumor, but her neurosurgeon, DR. Fazl, of Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto said, she also has had a stroke. I wondered why she lost the use of her legs for three months. If that were not enough, her right neck artery is clogged, and the left has a blood clot in it, and part of that clot has travelled to the middle of her brain. That just couldn’t be enough for me to bare. My seven year old grandson was diagnosed with a fairly large plexiform tumor wrapping a round his sternal muscle and through it at the base on the left side of his neck, also interferring with the sub clavean. The latest now is that Sick Childrens Hospital has found a possible tumor behind his left eye. I won’t even go into the fact that he has a scholeosis. I have been trying to mentally keep it together, but I am losing the battle. Four weeks ago, I recieved a phone call from hospital, telling me my brother had lung cancer, and less than six months to live. I cracked and fell apart mentally, deeper into a depression that I have never experienced before. A world so isolated from everyone, that I find myself thinking, stop the world and let me off. Wal Mart is aware of my situation, and yet they want me to sign a form saying that I am requesting a leave of absence. I told them that I would not do that as, I would be lying. My doctor took me off work, I did not ask to be off work. Although, I must admit, work was becoming more and more difficult to deal with, under my circumstances. With Wal Mart holding back my record of hours is causing me greater stress on top of all I have on my lap at the present time. It is getting harder to live, than not to live at all. Wal Mart is not helping, but pushing me further over the edge with thier demands of signing this form, to the point of having a Mr. Jamie Allison from head office calling me, and telling me I had to sign the form, request for leave of absence. I am so tired and stressed, that each day is becoming more and more of a burden for me to bare. Could anyone email me some advise, or directions on what I might possible be able to do about this. Lost. karailatto@yahoo.ca

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