The Human Rights Review Tribunal has ordered an employer to pay $10,000 to an applicant for breaching the Human Rights Act.

The applicant applied for a job with the employer and underwent the interview process. She was later given an offer of employment over the phone, but an issue arose before a written offer of employment was made. This issue was that the applicant’s mother worked in the same department as the applicant’s potential role.

The employer raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest, given the team’s access to personal information about one another. The employer determined that the employment would breach their conflict of interest policy and that there were no other suitable roles available for the applicant. The applicant’s offer of employment was rescinded.

The applicant brought a claim to the Tribunal, stating that the employer’s actions were a breach of the Human Rights Act. The Act states that it is unlawful to refuse employment to a person on the grounds of discrimination. In this case, the ground of discrimination was the applicant’s family status.

The Tribunal accepted that the applicant’s family status was a “material ingredient” in the employer’s refusal to hire her. The Tribunal also decided that no exception to the Act applied in this case.

The employer stated that the reason for refusing the employment was that there was a risk of favouritism, which went against the employer’s conflicts policy.

The Tribunal decided that favouritism by itself was not enough to invoke a risk of “collusion” between the applicant and her mother, and so no exception applied. This conclusion may have been different if there was a direct reporting relationship between the mother and the applicant, or the applicant’s role had been for a more senior position.

The Tribunal ordered the employer to pay $10,000 to the applicant in compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings.

Each individual is entitled to certain rights. If you are confused about your rights or believe you have been treated unfairly, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors