Generally, in hiring or continuing to employ an individual, an employer is not allowed to discriminate against the individual based on a “prohibited ground.”  The “prohibited grounds” under the BC Human Rights Code are: the individual’s race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age, or because the individual has been convicted of a criminal or summary conviction offence that is unrelated to the employment or to the intended employment.

If the job has an actual, legitimate job requirement (a “bona fide occupational requirement”) that cannot, without undue hardship to the employer, be modified to reasonably accommodate the candidate, only then may an employer base a decision to hire or continue to employ an individual on a prohibited ground.

Because of these limitations, it is generally recommended that employers avoid asking questions that could reveal information which could be a prohibited ground of discrimination. Sometimes background or other types of checks can provide an employer with information relevant to, or indicative of, a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Here is a useful brochure published by the BC Ministry of the Attorney General, which advises employers what they may ask questions about and what questions they should avoid:

The fact that a background check or question or other method of collecting information about the employee made an employer aware of information that could be a prohibited ground of discrimination is not –by itself – evidence that the employer’s decision not to hire (or to continue to employ) the individual was discriminatory.

More evidence of discrimination is required in order to show that the decision not to hire or continue to employ a person was, in fact, based on a prohibited ground of discrimination rather than based on some other reason.

If you think that your personal information was used by an employer to discriminate against you, you have some choices. You can file a complaint with the relevant privacy commissioner alleging your personal information was mis-used, or used for a purpose that wasn’t reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances or you can file a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal, but before you do, visit these websites: