Racism in job ads hard to stamp out

Annou-Xavier.

PETALING JAYA: Two lawyers have spoken out against discriminatory job advertisements, saying they are unconstitutional.

“Every time you open the vacancies page in a Chinese or Malay paper and see ads stating ‘Melayu sahaja’ or ‘Chinese only’, you should know they are going against Article 8 of the Federal Constitution,” said lawyer Annou Xavier.

Xavier was commenting on The Body Shop Malaysia’s “Wanted: Chinese only” job vacancy advertisement, for which the local franchise recently came under fire.

The advertisement was brought to the attention of Facebook users by Kishaniah Dhamodaran, who posted a photo of it. The Body Shop later apologised and promised to take action against the employee involved for the “unsanctioned” act.

Xavier said the Federal Constitution specifically stated that all were equal before the law and could not be discriminated by race, religion or gender.

Lawyer Balan Nair agreed, saying discriminatory job vacancy advertisements were an infringement of a person’s constitutional rights.

He blamed lack of law enforcement for the frequent occurrence of such advertisements.

“The Chinese-only or Malay-only vacancies are everywhere because of a lack of enforcement,” he said. “There should be guidelines governing the advertisement of job vacancies. Racial and even age discrimination has an adverse effect on society.”

Xavier acknowledged, however, that it was difficult to take action against any company placing such an advertisement because it had not filled the job vacancy and there was therefore no contractual relationship.

“This is unlike a situation in which a person is under employment and has a contractual relationship with the company and then he is dismissed without valid reason. Action can be taken through the Industrial Relations Act.”

Industrial relations practitioner Muhammad Sadas Abdullah said no law had been enacted to reflect the Federal Constitution’s attitude against discrimination in the hiring of employees.

“The government sets policies for things like racial composition, which essentially just means making sure that the Bumiputeras are not left out,” he said.

“When companies hire, they can hire anyone they like. They can even hire their own grandparents, uncles and aunts.

“It is up to the company to decide if it wants to hire only Chinese. The government may question its policy and blacklist the company, but that is all. No one is going to take a company to court because of that.”

Sadas said companies could act in a discriminatory way even when they were fulfilling government policies on Bumiputera rights.

“In certain companies, you’ll see that their factory workers are all Malays and Indians, but the administration, marketing and sales departments are made up of only Chinese.”

‘Racist’ ad unsanctioned, says The Body Shop