Discrimination in hiring

Freedom of contract

In principle, the employer enjoys freedom of contract. He is free to conclude an employment contract with a candidate or not. Similarly, he can refuse to hire him or prefer another employee for any reason he wishes. This freedom of contract is limited by the Law on Equality between Women and Men which prohibits discrimination in hiring.

Discrimination in hiring

There is discrimination within the meaning of the Equality Act when an employer treats an employee or applicant differently because of his or her sex, pregnancy or family situation, without any objective reason. This discrimination may already be apparent during the job interview.

For example, the employer may consider that a woman cannot properly perform a certain job (manager, engineer, mechanic) or refuse to hire her because she might want to have children. Discrimination in hiring also occurs when an employer refuses to hire a man as a secretary, early childhood educator or social worker because of his gender.

In rare cases, this discrimination can be justified on objective grounds. For example, an employer may claim that a pregnant woman's health is at risk, or that an employee of a certain gender is unable to perform his/her job properly.


"Are you pregnant or planning to become pregnant soon?"  "Are you married?" These questions often resonate in job interviews. However, they violate the applicant's privacy.

In principle, this question is illegal. The candidate has the right not to answer or to lie. If the employer discovers the lie, he or she may be liable if he or she retaliates against the employee.


When an employer refuses to hire an applicant because of his or her sex, he or she is committing employment discrimination. If the employer does not have objective and justified reasons for doing so, the rejected candidates can ask for compensation under certain conditions. In practice, it will be difficult to prove that the employer refused to hire him/her because of his/her sex or family situation or that he/she asked illegal questions without objective reasons. 

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