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Advice and Tips

Hiring Discrimination

Published: June 22 2023

Generally speaking, a private sector employer can hire anyone they’d like. At the same time, this right is somewhat restricted by anti-discrimination laws found in both the Working Environment Act and the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act.

Regarding hiring in the public sector, there are several administrative rules and regulations that apply to this process in addition to the ones found in the Working Environment Act. And at the central/state government level, the Civil Service Act states special requirements for the hiring process in this sector. This is why the public sector will be handled separately below.

Main laws prohibiting hiring discrimination

The Working Environment Act prohibits discrimination based on political beliefs, membership in an employee organization or age. Discrimination based on gender, pregnancy, parental leave, caregiving duties, ethnicity, religion, worldview, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression are all regulated by the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act.

Anti-discrimination laws apply to all aspects of an employment relationship; job postings, the hiring process, wages and working conditions; these apply at any time during an employment relationship as well as in the event an employment relationship is terminated. During the hiring process, an employer can’t collect any information about applicants’ views on topics such as politics, sexual orientation or membership in an employee organization. However, exceptions may be made depending on which topic areas are legal, including when gathering information is justified by 1) the job description itself. 2) the business’ purpose is to promote certain political, religious or cultural viewpoints, and 3) the job is important for realizing this purose. However, if this kind of information is to be gathered from applicants, it must be stated clearly in the job posting.

Direct and indirect discrimination

Anti-discrimination laws apply to both direct and indirect discrimination. The term “direct discrimination” means when an individual is treated worse than others are treated in a similar situation. “Indirect discrimination” means a condition or action that might appear to be neutral but in reality results in the individual becoming worse off than others.

You can read about anti-discrimination laws here:
Working Environment Act: Chapter 13.
You can read about how the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Law prohibits discrimination here:
Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act: Chapter 2
Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act: Chapter 5

When discrimination is legal

Under certain conditions, discrimination may be legal if it has a legitimate purpose with regard to an employee’s work performance and doesn’t unreasonably discriminate against them. For example, a contractor who’s hiring workers for a construction project is allowed to prioritize an applicant’s physical capacity for this kind of work. So if you use a wheelchair, it wouldn’t be sensible for them to hire you as a scaffolder. Yet this same employer can’t prioritize the fact that you use a wheelchair if they’re hiring a new accounting assistant.
Working Environment Act § 13-3 nr. 3
Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act § 9
Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act § 10

Lawsuits and appeals

Anyone who feels that they’ve been illegally discriminated against can go to court or appeal to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal. In order to assess the extent to which they have a sound basis for taking steps to do this, an employee can ask their employer for information about either the hiring process and/or the other applicants for the job in question. Next, the court/Anti-Discrimination Tribunal decides if illegal discrimination has indeed taken place. While neither the Tribunal nor the court can award the plaintiff the job in question, they can award financial compensation for non-financial reasons (so-called “damages”). These decisions don’t require any proof of an employer’s guilt or negligence – the fact that the action itself was illegal is all that’s needed. It’s also possible for an individual to claim compensation for any financial loss they’ve suffered in accordance with standard compensation laws; and under certain circumstance, the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal also has the authority to award compensation to individuals.

Requirement for employers to notify applicants when hiring:

Working Environment Act § 13-7
Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act § 31

Burden of proof in cases of discrimination:

Working Environment Act § 13-8
Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act § 37

Lawsuits and compensation

Working Environment Act § 13-9
Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act § 38

More information may be found on the Equality and Discrimination Board’s website

Qualification Principle

All hiring in the municipal and central government sectors takes place according to the so-called «qualification principle”; in short, this means that the most qualified applicant is to be hired for a job.

In the municipal sector, this principle is based on the Basic Agreement for the Municipal Sector ch. 1 § 2, nr. 2.2., where it says that "hiring and promotions must primarily consider the applicant’s qualifications (theoretical and practical education along with suitability for the position)". In the central government sector, the qualification principle appears in the Civil Service Act § 3.

What does «best qualified» mean?

The qualification assessment process must be based on the requirements that apply to the position; it is the employer that determines what these requirements are. When evaluating which applicant is best qualified for a particular job, it is natural to start by looking at the requirements listed in the job posting. So if any special requirements concerning an applicants’ education and experience appear in the job posting, they are in principle binding. If several applicants fulfill the education requirements listed in the job posting, the question becomes – after an overall assessment – who among these “best qualified” applicants satisfies the job’s requirements with regard to their experience and suitability for the job. Generally speaking, «suitability» includes personal qualities, for example an individual’s ability to administrate and cooperate with others as well as show flexibility and determination. Also, when assessing an applicant’s suitability, the employer must also act in accordance with the all of the other requirements that appear in the job posting.

Government agencies must work actively to recruit applicants with diverse backgrounds in order to strengthen inclusive government workplaces; consequently, employers must give positive preferential treatment to certain applicants. According to regulations in the Civil Service Act § 6, government employers are required to invite at least one qualified applicant with a disability or gap in their CV to an interview. Additionally, these regulations provide an opportunity for the employer to disregard the principle that the best qualified applicant is to be hired if there is an applicant with a disability who is qualified for the job.

A party’s right to inspection

Employment matters are exempt from standard regulations concerning a party’s right to inspection that appears in the Law on Administrative Practices in Public Administration. Yet this doesn’t mean that every document in a hiring matter is exempt from this right to inspect it; an applicant for a public sector position has an expanded right to inspect more information than does the general public. All applicants for a position are parties in the matter and can ask to inspect documents in accordance with the regulations appearing in the Law on Administrative Practices in Public Administration §§ 15 - 19.

When the application deadline has expired, the employer creates a so-called “expanded applicant list” which contains information about the applicants’ names, educational levels and previous work experience. This information is presented in the same way for all applicants. All applicants for public sector jobs have the right to read the applicant list. Regulations appearing in the Law on Administrative Practices in Public Administration contain a list of several other documents that job applicants also have the right to read – for example, applicants have the right to inspect any sections in these documents containing factual information about themselves. An applicant can also ask to inspect applications from applicants who have been put forward or hired for the job in question, including all attachments to these applications.

See regulations in the Law on Administrative Practices in Public Administration Chapter 5 (in Norwegian) on a party’s right to inspection with regard to hiring civil servants.

Opportunity to appeal a hiring decision

In contrast to other administrative decisions, you don’t have the right to appeal a hiring decision in accordance with the Law on Administrative Practices in Public Administration. However, if you feel that a mistake in the hiring process has taken place you make take your case before the Parliamentary Ombud.

Appeals to the Parliamentary Ombud

An appeal brought before the Parliamentary Ombud can be about the hiring process and/or the hiring decision itself; it must be presented within one year after the hiring committee has made its hiring decision.

See the Parliamentary Ombud’s website for
1) information on how to make an appeal and
2) statements on hiring issues.

When bringing an appeal before the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, the appeal must specifically concern discrimination in connection with a hiring decision. The tribunal may reject a case if it is more than three years old. Read the above information on lawsuits and appeals.

Let Tekna help you

Tekna can help you by evaluating your case and, if needed, bringing it before the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal; or, if your case warrants it, we can start legal proceedings. Please contact us if you want us to consider your case.

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