Nurse who can't speak Hindi, Punjabi denied job interview
The Brampton Guardian
Thursday September 13 2007
BRAMPTON – A Brampton woman who applied to be a registered nurse with William Osler Health Centre (WOHC) claims hiring personnel denied her a job interview because she doesn't speak Hindi or Punjabi.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said a phone call she received from WOHC was quickly dashed, after she told the caller the only other language she speaks besides English, is French.
WOHC spokesperson Dawn Dunn said officials are unaware of the incident, but stressed that other than one program with a specific focus on the region's South Asian population, the organization does not have a hiring policy that favours a specific ethnic group.
“I haven't heard of that in a job requirement at all. The only area, which I might believe would have a limitation, is a specialized program like our diabetes education program; we have a specific South Asian program (where there is such a language requirement for the job),” Dunn said. “But unless the language was specified as a job requirement in the job posting it doesn't make sense to me.”
The woman said she responded to an online posting on the popular job site Workopolis.com and sent her resume via the fax number provided. The woman said she was contacted by WOHC personnel at a later date and was surprised at the reason for her rejection.
“They said, 'Hi I am just calling from William Osler Health Centre, the new hospital opening in Brampton, and we received your application,'” said the woman who graduated from an accredited nursing program in the spring. “They asked me if I (speak) any other languages. I told them I (speak) English and French and then they asked if I speak any other dialects like Hindi or Punjabi. I said no. They said at that time they were only hiring staff that could speak the language of the population that they were serving. It (the job posting) was on the Internet and it didn't say anything (about speaking Hindi or Punjabi).”
The reason, as explained by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, is some qualifications can “unfairly prevent or discourage people from applying for a job.”
Language, however, is a grey area. Afroze Edwards, communications officer for the OHRC, said an employer can ask questions during an interview about language ability even if those requirements may be indirectly linked to a person's racial background, provided the language abilities relate to the job.
“In terms of the human rights perspective what they would have to do is show that the language requirement is a bona fide or reasonable requirement of the position,” Edwards explained. “So it could be a reasonable and genuine requirement for that position.”