Limiting job applications to a specific geographic area

Is geographic area a protected ground?
By Stuart Rudner
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 09/03/2014

Question: Can a company limit candidates for a position to a specific geographic area, or is that a form of discrimination?

Answer: Generally speaking, employers can establish any criteria they choose when hiring. Of course, criteria or decisions that relate even partially to a ground protected by human rights legislation will contravene that legislation. Limiting candidates based upon geography would not, in and of itself, be a breach of human rights or in any way be against the law.

However, geography can indirectly relate to prohibited grounds. For example, certain neighbourhoods will have — or not have — certain ethnic or religious groups living in them. As a result, discriminating based on such neighbourhoods could constitute indirect discrimination, which is equally unlawful. Employers cannot do indirectly what they are prohibited from doing directly. For example, we all understand that a policy of not hiring those of Italian descent would be unlawful. However, employers cannot “get away with it” by establishing criteria that would implicitly rule out Italian candidates.