A Review of Canadian Human Rights Cases Involving the Employment Interview

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Abstract

The goal of this study was to assess the extent to which the scholarly literature on employment interviewing is reflected in the deliberations and decisions of Human Rights Tribunals in Canada. We reviewed human rights cases reported in the Canadian Human Rights Reporter from 1980 to 2003. All cases involving charges of discrimination alleged to have occurred during a face-to-face employment interview were included for analysis (N = 75). Findings suggest that while tribunals give great importance to the standardization of the entire interview process across all candidates, they largely neglect the importance of job analysis as the foundation for job descriptions and interview questions.

Résumé

Dans cette étude, nous examinons les cas de violation aux droits de la personne publiés entre 1980 et 2003 dans la revue Canadian Human Rights Reporter. Nous analysons plus précisément les cas relatifs aux plaintes pour discrimination (N = 75) enregistrés lors des entrevues d'emploi directes. L'objet de l'étude est de déterminer jusqu'à quel point les contributions contenues dans la littérature savante sur les entrevues d'emploi sont prises en compte dans les délibérations et les décisions des tribunaux canadiens des droits de la personne. L'étude montre que bien que les tribunaux accordent une grande importance à la standardisation de tout le processus de l'entrevue, ils nous-estiment grandement le rôle que l'analyse de l'emploi peut jouer dans la description des postes et les questions d'entrevue.

The interview is the most frequently used selection device (Catano, Cronshaw, Wiesner, Hackett, & Methot, 2001; Gatewood & Feild, 1998) and is often given the most weight in hiring decisions (Kinicki, Lockwood, Horn, & Griffeth, 1990). There is now general agreement among experts in the field that "structured" interviews are preferable to unstructured interviews because of their superior reliability and validity in predicting job performance (Arvey & Campion, 1982; Campion, Palmer, & Campion, 1997; Con way, Jaco, & Goodman, 1995; Harris, 1989; Huffcut & Woehr, 1999; McDaniel, Whetzel, Schmidt, & Maurer, 1994; Webster, 1982; Wiesner & Cronshaw, 1988). Moreover, a review of U.S. jurisprudence involving the employment interview has shown that structured interviews hold up better to legal challenge than do unstructured interviews (Williamson, Campion, Malos, Roehling, & Campion, 1997). This is likely attributable to the heightened objectivity, standardization, and job relatedness associated with structured interviews (Campion, Pursell, & Brown, 1988; Pursell, Campion, & Gaylord, 1980).

Canadian legislation on the use of selection assessments is similar to the corresponding American legislation (Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedure, 1978). The Human Rights Codes of the various jurisdictions1 throughout Canada specify that no employer may discriminate, in hiring or in terms and conditions of employment, on the basis of race, colour, religion, creed, age, sex (including pregnancy and childbirth), marital status, and physical/mental disability. Additionally, the majority of jurisdictions have legislated sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, family status, dependence on alcohol or drug, ancestry or place of origin, and political belief as prohibited grounds of discrimination. It is clear that all Canadian employers must comply with the law in these areas. Although there is evidence of structured selection interviews withstanding legal challenge in the United States (Williamson et al., 1997), we know little about the extent to which Canadian Human Rights Tribunals consider interview structure in cases involving alleged unfair discrimination in employment interviewing. We expected that Canadian Human Rights Boards and Tribunals would favour structured over unstructured employment interviewing, a sentiment captured in a quote from the Tribunal Chair in the case of Abouchar v. …