Working Wise | DrumhellerMail - Page #46
Last updateFri, 21 Jun 2024 5pm

What Employers Can Ask


Dear Working Wise:

What questions are employers allowed to ask potential employees during a job interview? I was recently if I was planning on having children soon? I said “no”, but the question didn’t feel right. Am I overreacting? Signed, Concerned Young Professional


Dear Concerned:


No, employers are not allowed to ask you when or if you’re planning to have children. Private information like that is protected under the Alberta Human Rights Act for businesses under provincial jurisdiction.


Some employers might not be well informed about this provincial legislation and may unknowingly ask inappropriate questions. You should prepare for this possibility so you’re not caught off guard in an interview.


Generally, any information that could intentionally or inadvertently be used to discriminate against you cannot be asked. Employers should only be asking you for information that is relevant to your ability to do the job.


Employers cannot ask about your:

·   gender, marital status, family status, next of kin, marriage plans or child-care arrangements;

·   source of income, unless it concerns your former employment;

·   maiden name or name origin;

·   age or date of birth, but they can ask if you meet the minimum age requirement for the job, if applicable;

·   previous address, unless it meets a business purpose acceptable under the Act;

·   birthplace or ancestry;

·   height or weight

·   sexual orientation;

·   membership in organizations unrelated to your work, hobbies or interests that would indicate race, religious beliefs, ancestry or place of origin, etc., but employers can ask questions regarding membership in professional organizations related to the position, e.g. APEGGA for engineers;

·   current or past health problems, Workers’ Compensation Board claims, or any absence due to stress or mental illness;

·   citizenship or languages not required for the job;

·   religious beliefs, customs and holidays that you observe; or

·   military service outside Canada, unless there is an acceptable business-related purpose.


Employers can not request a photo, which could reveal factors such as race and gender, except in certain circumstances such as a modeling or entertainment position, where this may be acceptable. If an employer requires a photograph for business-related purposes, they can ask for it after an offer of employment has been made.


Employers can ask:

- if you can fulfill work-related requirements, such as working night shifts or lifting heavy items;

- for any previous names you have had if the information is needed to complete reference checks or verify your past employment or education; and

- if you are legally permitted to work in Alberta.


Three ways to handle inappropriate questions:

1.      Write "not applicable" on the application form, politely refuse to answer the question, or tactfully let the employer know the question is inappropriate;

2.      Answer the question and then discuss the underlying concern that has prompted the question. For example, an employer who inappropriately asks about your family plans might be wondering if you will be frequently absent. In this case you could address the underlying concern by talking about your excellent attendance record and your ability to do the job; or

3.      Answer only the underlying concern.


However you choose to answer, be professional, diplomatic and honest.


After you are offered the job and accept it, the employer can ask you for information required for benefit coverage and for employment records.


If you have a question about a specific situation or think you might have a complaint, contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission.


Alberta Human Rights Commission – Northern Regional Office

800 Standard Life Centre, 10405 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4R7

Confidential Inquiry Line 780-427-7661, Fax: 780-427-6013

To call toll-free within Alberta, dial 310-0000 and then enter the area code and phone number.


Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This article is for general information.

Photo by:  © 

Green Jobs


Dear Working Wise:

I’ve been hearing a lot about “green-collar jobs” lately. What are green-collar jobs, do they pay well, and is anyone hiring for them? Signed, Green Job Hunter


Dear Green Job Hunter:

The definition of a green-collar job, or green job, is still a little vague, but the Sightline Institute defines green-collar jobs as: “workers who devote their hours to boosting energy efficiency, increasing renewable energy, or reducing pollution,” [].


Salaries for green jobs vary according to a number of factors, including region, organization size, industry group, and seniority. A compensation report conducted by ECO Canada in 2008 found the following annual salary ranges based upon seniority:

$35,000 - Entry Level

$40,000 – $50,000 - Junior

$50,000 – $62,000 - Intermediate

$62,000 – $80,000 - Senior

$80,000 – $100,000+ - Principal


The outlook for green jobs seems to be good. A 2008 employer survey by ECO Canada found that 65 per cent of employers in the environmental sector were expecting to grow within the next two years.


The survey found that growth expectations varied by the type of work, but all were positive:

+ 14% - Air Quality

+ 10% - Restoration and Reclamation

+   8% - Research and Development

+   7% - Natural Resource management


Green jobs seem to permeate a wide variety of occupations. Scientists and engineers are needed to design and develop new green technologies and products.


Manufacturers are needed to build these new solutions and make them economically viable.


Project Managers are needed to ensure the completion of complex projects such as the installation of a wind farm or the construction of a building that meets LEED certification.


Skilled trades people are needed to construct green projects install new machinery and use new products and techniques to build more environmentally friendly buildings.


Technicians are needed to operate these new machines and buildings and make them perform to their specifications.


Public-engagement professionals are needed to build public support and participation in green projects and fundraisers are needed to help raise money for environmental advocacy.


Early green jobs were mostly remediation and site clean-up work, linked to land, air and water quality, but the industry has evolved to become more preventative and encourage sustainable development.


According to ECO Canada, the five hottest green jobs in 2010 will be:

1. Conservation Officer

2. Waste-management Specialist

3. Aquatics/Marine Biologist

4. Environmental Assessment Analyst

5. Meteorologist


Other green careers include: land-use planners, land-reclamation workers, energy-efficiency auditors, weatherproofing installers, auto-parts dismantlers, recycling-plant sorters, asbestos-removal workers, solar-panel salespeople, emissions traders, carbon-capture technicians, and wind-farm planners and farmers.


As you can see, some of green jobs are new while others already exist. The focus, tools and techniques of these jobs may change, but the core skills will remain the same.


Sheet-metal workers will find work installing energy efficient furnaces. Electricians will be busy installing new solar-panel systems and replacing inefficient lighting systems. And plumbers will find work installing low-flow toilets and solar-water heaters.


The five most in-demand green jobs right now, according to ECO Canada, are:

1.      Environmental Engineer

2.      Environmental Technician/Technologist

3.      Remediation Specialist

4.      Air-quality Technician/Technologist

5.      Hydrologist


For more information on green-collar jobs, including available training, check out the ECO Canada web site at: They have a free job board for green jobs and occupational profiles on more than 100 environmental occupations. GoodWork Canada also offers a free green job postings at


Good luck!


Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.

Exit Interviews


Dear Working Wise:
Head office has asked me to start conducting exit interviews with the staff who resign. I’m not excited about the process. I’ve never done them before. What should I consider when I am doing one? – Signed, Not Excited about Exits

Dear Not Excited,

Exit interviews are probably one of the most important, but least used, staff-retention tools you have. How can you encourage your employees to stay if you don’t know why they leave?

Departing employees tend to be more frank about their job and current workplace, which makes exit interviews a unique opportunity to learn more about your business. You may learn what attracts workers to your organization as well as what turns them away. You may also learn about current problems in the workplace, who your strongest leaders are, and what staff morale is really like.

Some human resources experts believe that only employees who leave voluntarily should be considered for exit interviews. People who are fired or laid-off may harbour too many bad feelings to provide anything useful. It’s your call. If you feel anyone newly-fired would be willing to talk, go for it.

With any exit interview it’s important that it be non-confrontational. Your goal is not to convince them to stay, nor chide them for leaving. Use this meeting to collect valuable information.

The departing staff member may not be too open with their manager or supervisor, especially when it’s their performance that’s the reason for leaving. You might want someone from human resources, or some other neutral person, to conduct the interview.

Reassure the interviewee that their privacy will be maintained—that you will only use their feedback as a way of improving the workplace.

You also want the interview to take place at a neutral and private location. Some have even opted to do exit interviews over the phone to ensure privacy.

Another consideration is when to hold the interview. Most human resources practitioners suggest it happen in the days leading up to the employee’s last day – they are usually finishing up their projects and completing other HR-related activities (final timesheets, transferring benefits, etc.) anyway.

Others, though, suggest that the exit interview be conducted after the person leaves, so they have a chance to reflect on their time they were working.

You will probably want to ask questions like: Why are you leaving? What did you like the most? What did you like the least? Try to get to be as specific as possible. You might be able to use that information when looking for a replacement.

This information could be useful to local or senior management, but you will need to ensure that anything that might identify the person is removed (name, positions, even specific comments). You will also want to make sure that the employee’s supervisor does not get access, especially if the supervisor’s skills are questioned.

Some HR people suggest these exit interviews should be done regularly with all staff and especially with the staff who stay. These “stay-interviews” would be done to find out why people don’t leave your organization and could be as equally as valuable as talking to the people who leave. Even some discussion during the annual performance reviews to ask people what keeps them at the job, could give you some valuable insight.

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.

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