Questions You Should and Shouldn't Ask in a Job Interview Your palms are sweaty, there’s maybe a little shortening of breath, all of a sudden your stress twitch from middle school has returned. It’s job interview time. We get it, job interviews can be scary. Dream job or not, one can feel a lot of pressure to represent the best possible version of themselves, and sometimes we go to great lengths to do so. You’ve prepared yourself for all the common job interview questions, and you’re worried about the one you don’t want to answer. We can’t always get what we want, but we can prepare ourselves in a different way. Know your rights as a job applicant and be prepared by knowing what job questions are illegal.

Illegal Job Interview Questions

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal entity that enforces employment discrimination laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (over 40), disability, or genetic information. Employees covered under these EEOC laws are people who work at a company with 15 or more employees and 20 employees for age discrimination cases. All types of work situations are included in these laws meaning hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits are all applicable. The specific federal laws the EEOC oversees are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 102 and 103 of the Civil Rights Act, Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

The EEOC and the Hiring Process

Any job interview question that may violate the EEOC laws can be considered illegal. This means, any questions regarding a job candidate’s race, age, gender, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or marital or family status are illegal. Job interviews can manifest in many ways: sometimes they are very formal, sometimes it’s more of an evaluation, or you’re give a test, and sometimes may seem more like a friendly chat over lunch. If this is the case, and the interview is somewhat informal, there’s a chance an employer could easily misstep and ask an illegal question. So as a job candidate, stay on your toes when your interview is in an informal setting.

The EEOC outlines certain illegal practices regarding employment. In the plainest sense, it states that simply, it is illegal to discriminate in every aspect of employment. However, like most things, we need clarification. The EEOC declares it is illegal to post job advertisements that show a preference for or discourages someone for applying for a job because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (40 and older), and disability or genetic information. Take note that sex includes gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy. The same goes for the manner in which employers recruit new employees and make hiring decision. If an employer issues a test, the test must be necessary and related to the job and cannot discriminate against a protected category.

When it comes to legal and illegal job interview questions, there can be a grey area. The EEOC states it is illegal to ask questions based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and age as long as they are not relevant to the job. If questions based on the categories are asked, they must be justified in having a specific business purpose. Sometimes race related questions may be asked for affirmative action purposes, but these should be separate from an application so that the race-related information is disconnected from the information of qualifications for the job. Any telephone inquiries that are race related are usually unjustified. If you feel like race, or any other category protected under the EEOC has been the source of discrimination in your hiring process, do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our discrimination lawyers to help you make sure you are being put through legal hiring procedures.

Types of Illegal Job Interview Questions

  • Address: Do you own your own home or rent? Who do you live with?
  • Age: What year were you born? When did you graduate high school?
  • Citizenship: /practice-areas/discrimination-lawsuit/ Can you provide a birth certificate? You sound like you have an accent, where are you from? Where were your parents born?
  • Credit: Do you have a bank account? Have you ever declared bankruptcy? Do you have any outstanding debt?
  • Disabilities: Do you have a disability? Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim? Do you take any prescription drugs? Have you ever been an alcoholic?
  • Employment: When did you first start working?
  • Family status: Are you married? Are you single? Do you have children?
  • Financial status: Do you own a car? (If not a requirement for the job)
  • Height of weight: What is your height? How much do you weigh?
  • Organizations: What sorority did you join? Are you a member of a local country club?
  • Personal Information: What is your maiden name?
  • Pregnancy: Are you pregnant? Are you trying to get pregnant?
  • Religion: Who is your pastor? Do you go to church?
  • Race: Are you Hispanic?
  • Arrest record: Have you ever been arrested?
  • Military status: What type of discharge did you receive in the military?

The ADA and the Hiring Process

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against any applicant because of their disability. This is why asking if someone has a disability is illegal. Any questions an employer asks about disabilities must be the same questions asked to all other applicants. The ADA applies to companies with 15 or more employees. If you’ve been asked discriminatory questions based on a disability, then you should speak to one of our discrimination attorneys. Or, if you’re not sure if you’ve been asked an illegal question or not, it does not hurt to talk to one of our lawyers to better understand what is prohibited and what isn’t during a job interview. Under this law, you are also entitled to reasonable accommodations from your employer as long as it does not cause them undue hardship. However, it is illegal for employers to make pre-offer inquiries about disabilities. This may be another grey area because while employers cannot ask disability-related questions or require medical examinations before hiring, they are allowed to ask questions regarding reasonable accommodation if the applicant has an obvious disability or has voluntarily disclosed their disability or need for reasonable accommodation. An employer cannot ask about the severity of a disability, but after offering the job, they are allowed to ask disability-related questions and ask for medical examinations as long as anyone else selected for the job is required to do the same.

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If you have been discriminated against because of your race, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin during any step of the hiring process, then you need to speak to one of our experience discrimination attorneys here at California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group. With our free consultation, it won’t cost you a thing to find out about your case and see if you have legitimate grounds to sue. We also have a zero-fee guarantee, where we do not charge you to take on your case. You will only be charged if we win. Or, if you’re looking for a second opinion on your case, you can also come to us free of charge. We want you to be happy with your legal decisions, and we are more than glad to take a free second look at your case to make sure you will get everything you deserve.

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