November 26, 2019

Hiring and promoting employees who seem like a good “fit” for the culture of the workplace is a common practice, but it is a process fraught with the potential for serious adverse legal and public relations consequences. Candidates from marginalized groups for new or vacant positions may be seriously disadvantaged when staffing decisions are made on the basis of organizational “fit,” leading to a lack of diversity in the workplace and claims of systemic discrimination. In this session, an expert will review the latest research on how hiring for fit affects organizational dynamics and diversity, and experienced labour and employment lawyers will identify staffing practices that result in systemic discrimination prohibited by human rights legislation and those that will withstand scrutiny.

  • What does current research say about making employment decisions based on “fit”? How prevalent is this practice? How are decisions regarding “fit” generally made? On balance, does the practice of hiring, firing, and promoting for fit positively or negatively influence productivity and innovation? Does it help or hurt recruitment and retention? How does it affect women, racialized groups, and people with disabilities?
  • Is systemic discrimination the inevitable result of hiring, firing, and promoting based on management’s perceptions of how well someone fits in at the workplace? What’s the line between looking for ideal qualities and character traits in employees or potential employees and discriminating against individuals because of their differing cultural norms, values, and behaviours?
  • In what circumstances, if any, is it discriminatory to make staffing decisions on the basis of personality traits or the way candidates for a position express emotion? In what circumstances, if any, would certain personality traits or attitudes be bona fide occupational requirements? For example, can hiring decisions be based on candidates’ enthusiasm or assertiveness?
  • Is an employer’s discretion to make employment decisions based on fit more constrained in unionized workplaces than in non-unionized workplaces? How, if at all, is the influence of implicit or unconscious bias limited by collective agreement clauses usually negotiated to address the selection or promotion of candidates to fill new or vacant positions?
  • Where the collective agreement provides for discharge of probationary employees in the sole discretion of the employer, is the employer free to discharge a probationary employee who is simply not a good fit for the organization? Is determining probationary employees’ “suitability” different from determining whether they are a good fit? How, if at all, is dismissing probationary employees for “deficiencies in character and compatibility” different from dismissing them for being a bad fit?
  • Where policies and procedures are designed to fill vacancies on the basis of objective, non-discriminatory criteria, what is the role of job descriptions/posted requirements; interviews; references; work record (including performance appraisals and adverse reports); tests of skills or abilities; aptitude testing; personality; and psychological or other testing that assesses personal interests, attitudes, and values?