From Anne Chopra, Equity Ombudsperson, Law Society of BC
Equity Ombudsperson asks: Are you acting in the best interest of your firm?
Firms continue to violate Human Rights Code with inappropriate interview questions
Sitting at my desk, I check my voicemail and find I have three messages from students in the process of lining up law firms for their articles. The students are emotional and distressed, but not because they are having trouble finding articles.
Yes, I am familiar with the season of articling interviews. Students are excited to launch their careers and eager to begin to practice law. With this positive attitude they apply to firms and attend their interviews.
However, for some, they soon become deflated and start questioning their decisions. All because they have been asked inappropriate questions during their interviews – questions that unequivocally violate the BC Human Rights Code.
These are not questions that are on the border or in the grey area of acceptable. These are direct questions that include: How old are you? Are you married? Do you have children?
As an interviewer, you may believe that because a student answered such a question or never reported you, having asked it is OK.
Generally, no student makes a formal complaint, as they are not in a position of power. But, there is indeed another long-term issue that should be considered by any firm.
In my experience, based on the last 11 years, students who are asked these types of questions do not want to work for the firm in question or regret their decision to do so. Some discuss their experiences with me, and presumably many others, and the reputation and image of the firm is slowly but surely blemished and undermined.
It is inevitable that such firms will eventually not attract from the larger and qualified pool of talented lawyers. Bottom line: your firm’s reputation will restrict your ability to hire students who have options – the best and brightest who have the choice to work at a firm known for its diversity and positive culture. When interviewing, consider whether you are acting in the best interest of your firm.
I invite you to contact me, as your confidential resource, when you are not certain about your interviewing strategy. Other callers, whether lawyers, students or law firm employees, are also welcome to contact me if you require assistance with an issue of discrimination or harassment. For further details, please see the Law Society’s website.
Contact Anne Chopra at:
2102 – 212 Davie Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 5Z6