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Preferential hiring in human rights legislation – HRD Canada

Jun 6, 2024

In the age of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), businesses may wish to increase the representation of minorities in their workforce. It is now generally accepted that a more diverse workforce can strengthen an organization overall, and businesses have responded by building DEI into their policies and hiring practices.

However, discrimination on the basis of race is still technically discrimination even when a minority applicant is selected on the basis of their race, and is prohibited by human rights law. For example, s. 16 of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, 2018 (SHRC) provides that employers are not permitted to discriminate based on prohibited grounds such as race or perceived race in employment or hiring. Similar provisions can be found in human rights legislation across Canada.

To allow employers to hire minority applicants with the goal of ameliorating disadvantage, federal and provincial human rights laws provide an exception to the general rule against discrimination in employment practices. The SHRC allows organizations to implement employment equity programs for the purpose of preventing, reducing, or eliminating disadvantage, and it also allows organizations to hire preferentially by developing reasonable and justifiable measures to address underrepresentation.

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