The Recruitment Process – Be Careful What You Ask For!

December, 2014

By Clayton Payne

A recent decision of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) highlights the need for employers to carefully consider the questions that they ask of prospective employees.

In Willmott v. Woolworths Limited, the Applicant lodged a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) over questions he was asked in an online application to work at a petrol outlet owned by the Respondent at Beerwah.

The application required answers to certain mandatory fields including the candidate’s gender and date of birth, and the candidates were also required to provide documentary proof of their right to work in Australia.

The Applicant refused to complete the online application and filed an application with the ADCQ, on the basis that he took offence at the Respondent’s insistence on the information being provided.

Among other things, it was alleged that the request for this information constituted unlawful discrimination on the grounds of race, age and sex, and that the request constituted a request for information on which “ … unlawful discrimination might be based”.

The Respondent had by and large removed the subject mandatory information request from its application process before the matter proceeded to a hearing in the QCAT.

Senior Member Oliver in hearing the matter found, among other things that:

The Senior Member ultimately found that the Respondent had contravened the relevant discrimination prohibition provisions of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (Qld) by requiring information about the Applicant’s date of birth and gender in the online job application.

The Respondent was ordered to pay the Applicant compensation in the sum of $5,000.

Conclusion

This decision demonstrates that the types of information sought from a prospective employee, particularly in the application process for a position, need to be carefully considered. Although the reasons for seeking the information might be perfectly legitimate (as they would appear to have been in this case), if the request opens up a prospective employer to an allegation that the information may be misused, for example, an employer could be exposed to dealing with time consuming and costly unlawful discrimination complaints.

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