The Act recognizes that sometimes discrimination is reasonable and justifiable in the circumstances. This allows a person or organization responding to a human rights complaint to justify a discriminatory practice, requirement, standard, or policy as being reasonable and justifiable.
A discriminatory practice at work that is reasonable and justifiable is called a bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR). A service provider may have discriminatory standards or policies that are reasonable and justifiable.
Employers, service providers, landlords, and others must meet legal requirements to prove a practice, requirement, standard, or policy is reasonable and justifiable. They must show it:
- was adopted for a purpose that is rationally connected to the function being performed
- was made in an honest and good‑faith belief that it was necessary to fulfill a legitimate purpose or goal
- was reasonably necessary to accomplish that purpose or goal, including that the respondent could not accommodate the complainant without incurring undue hardship
For example, a car insurance company provides different premium rates to people based on a risk assessment of certain age groups. While the company’s rate-setting methods are prima facie (at first glance) discriminatory based on age, the practice of charging more for certain groups is reasonable and justifiable. The insurance company’s methods may be a sound and accepted practice in the industry, and there may be no practical alternatives that are fair to other insured drivers.
Another example is a seniors’ residence only hiring male nursing attendants for male residents who request an attendant of the same gender. A female job applicant applies for a nursing attendant position in the seniors’ residence but is not hired. The employer may have a bona fide occupational requirement, as it is reasonable for residents to have their requests met to preserve their sense of personal dignity and privacy. While the requirement is at first glance discriminatory, it is reasonable and justifiable in the circumstance.
If you are the respondent to a complaint and believe the discrimination described in the complaint is reasonable and justifiable, you should provide detailed information about this in the Response Form.
For more on reasonable and justifiable practices, requirements, standards, or policies, refer to the Defences to Human Rights Complaints human rights guide.