Alanah Eriksen

Alanah Eriksen is the New Zealand Herald's property reporter, and assistant chief reporter.

Firm slapped for quizzing jobseeker about baby plans

A New Zealand company was taken to the Human Rights Commission by a jobseeker over gender discrimination. Photo / Thinkstock
A New Zealand company was taken to the Human Rights Commission by a jobseeker over gender discrimination. Photo / Thinkstock

A business has been reprimanded after asking a woman in a job interview whether she was getting married soon and wanted to have children.

Advocacy groups for women in the workplace say it is still common for potential employers to ask such questions when assessing stability, but women are becoming more vocal about their rights.

Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer made headlines last week after it was revealed she was five months pregnant when she got the job - and her employers knew when they hired her.

But a New Zealand company, which has not been named, was taken to the Human Rights Commission by a jobseeker over gender discrimination.

The woman, named as Abby, was asked in an interview if she was married or engaged, what her partner did for a living, if she was getting married soon and whether she wanted children.

The case is one of a number of employment-related complaints featured in the commission's annual Ti Rito document.

Abby answered the questions but later made a complaint of unlawful discrimination.

"Abby told the commission that she no longer wanted to work for the organisation," the document said.

"Abby didn't want to meet with the organisation to discuss the interview but she did want to be assured that it would consider her complaint and reconsider its interview processes."

The company's human resources manager told the commission the questions were a way of assessing stability. The employer was informed of the provisions under the Human Rights Act, which protects women from pregnancy discrimination during the recruitment process, and they discussed alternative questions to ask potential employees.

Abby said she was satisfied with how the business had responded.

In another case, a female employee, Kay, discovered she was being paid a lower hourly rate than her two male colleagues doing the same job.

"She approached her boss who told her he was entitled to pay her what he liked," the document said.

Kay complained to the commission and her employer's head office ordered a review. As a result, the company increased her hourly rate, gave her backpay for two years and introduced an annual performance review system.

RACE, SEXUALITY, CRIME, RELIGION SPARK COMPLAINTS

* A Maori labourer in the building industry complained after his employer kept referring to him as "black arse" or "that black c***". After mediation, his supervisor apologised and offered his job back but he declined.
* A man was told to keep his sexual orientation quiet and not to bring his male partner into the shop he worked in or he would not be offered a permanent position. After mediation, his boss apologised and offered a positive reference.
* A woman was awarded $18,000 for stress after being offered a job, then told she could not start because of her ex-partner's criminal record.
* A woman who did not attend church was told by her employer that if she wasn't prepared to alter her religious outlook - or lack thereof - there would be no more work for her. The parties eventually agreed religion was not an appropriate subject in the workplace.

- NZ Herald

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