ONTD Political

Quebec university defends asking job candidates about menstruation, HIV status

9:32 pm - 02/02/2018

MONTREAL – A Quebec City university is being criticized for a questionnaire that required job candidates to reveal whether they’ve been tested for HIV, the date they last menstruated and whether they’ve been treated for cancer.

Universite Laval‘s vice-rector for human resources said the questionnaire was used to find out whether candidates would need workplace accommodation.

“It’s a standard practice in human resources to verify if a person has particular conditions that mean we need to adapt their work environment,” Lyne Bouchard told The Canadian Press.

Bouchard confirmed the university stopped using the questionnaire after Jan. 10, when local media began to ask questions.

She added that no applicant was ever removed from the job pool on the basis of their answers and that the university had not received any complaints about the form.

The 40-question, four-page form had been given out to people applying for jobs at the university since 2009.

Among other questions, respondents were asked to list the cause of death of close family members and answer whether they’d consulted a psychologist or made a claim to Quebec’s workplace health and safety board.

In a section reserved for women, applicants were asked to jot down the date of their last menstruation and gynecology exam, and declare whether they’d ever been pregnant or had an abortion.

Bouchard said she couldn’t explain why some of these last questions had been included, admitting they “contravened the values” of the university.

According to human rights lawyer Stephanie Fournier, the questionnaire is clearly discriminatory and violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“The principle is clear: the mere fact of asking, in a selection process, questions on the state of health or any ground of protected discrimination, be it civil status, religion, sexual orientation, constitutes discrimination,” she said in an interview.

Fournier said that in the case of pre-employment contracts the burden of proof is on the employer to prove that the questions are relevant to a candidate’s ability to do the job in question.

Employers may not, for example, use such questionnaires to rule out candidates with a greater risk of absenteeism or who might become pregnant, she added.

Bouchard insisted the information in the questionnaire was kept confidential and was sent directly to a doctor.

She said the hiring process was currently undergoing a review that would likely lead to the creation of a new questionnaire.


soleiltropiques 7th-Feb-2018 11:08 pm (UTC)
Wow. I'm from Quebec myself, and I didn't hear about this until I read your post!

That's just terrible, wtf.

I also think it's pretty common, unfortunately, for employers to try to find out how likely a woman is to get pregnant while working for them, or if she is pregnant already... And for that to have consequences relative to their employment. It isn't supposed to work that way, but I remember one of my friends being fired when she got pregnant with her first child (this was in Ontario, another Canadian province).

Women don't complain in many cases (even after being fired), because it means being 'blackballed' and not being able to work in their area again. So employers (as in the case of my friend) routinely get away with this.

Employers will even ask women if they've already had children, in order to find out how likely they are to have to be absent during a pregnancy.

I'm hoping movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp will change things for the better for women in this area as well, but I won't hold my breath.
hobbits_friend 8th-Feb-2018 07:36 pm (UTC)
This was the only article about this that I could find (I always compare different articles before I post to find the most comprehensive one) and I only saw it in a comment at another comm somewhere I think.

In Austria it's not allowed to ask women if they want children (and if they ask you can lie to them).
soleiltropiques 8th-Feb-2018 11:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's not legal here either, but they do it anyway. I wonder, is there a better way of enforcing this in place in in Austria?

The problem here is that women don't dare complain in many cases, because of the consequences down the road in terms of employment. And it's not even just male employers, I've had female bosses who complained about employees taking maternity leave.

I wonder if what it would take is someone doing a report on this, with undercover cameras etc. Or a more long-term investigative news story of some kind. I think this needs to be brought to the fore, in this country at least (I hope it's better elsewhere!).

I actually found quite a few news stories on the University of Laval thing later, but they were all in French. It's funny (and a bit depressing) that French media in the country tends to cover mostly Quebec and English media tends to not cover Quebec as much (from what I've noticed anyway).
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