‘Females only’ job posting a human rights violation

Help wanted sign. Stock photo by Getty Images

A recent decision from Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal carries a valuable lesson for employers.

Adnan Cenanovic brought a complaint against Bourbon St. Grill after he spotted a Kijiji job posting for “females only.” Cenanovic applied anyway and says his application was rudely rejected, leaving him stressed, depressed, humiliated and “beaten to the bone” (not physically, we presume). He wanted $25,000 in compensation.

The restaurant said Cenanovic wasn’t a genuine applicant since he lacked any restaurant experience or real interest in the job, but instead just wanted to serve up trouble.

See: Human rights and discrimination

The tribunal agreed that Cenanovic wasn’t a bona fide applicant. Tribunals are generally loath to hand out big awards unless the applicant can show they genuinely suffered some sort of financial loss or damage to personal dignity and Cenanovic couldn’t do it.

In the end, the restaurant got off clean and Cenanovic got nothing.

However, that doesn’t mean the restaurant did nothing wrong. The tribunal said the ad was discriminatory and violated ss. 5 and 23 of the Ontario Human Rights Code, which deal with employment and job advertisements.

After Cenanovic’s failed application, the manager printed a copy of the Code and discussed it with staff. He then developed a policy on human rights and hiring discrimination.

Given this, the tribunal said the Code clearly had its intended effect, since it “identified and corrected” discrimination at the restaurant.

If Cenanovic had been a bona fide applicant, or the manager hadn’t taken those steps to address discrimination, the restaurant likely would’ve been liable for some kind of damages. Past cases have seen restaurants dinged for thousands of dollars over discrimination in their hiring practices.

So remember to keep a level playing field, lest you pay the price.
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