Photo: Flickr/William Brawley
During job interviews, employers will try to gather as much information about you as possible, so there’s bound to be some questions that will require you to think.But it’s the simple questions that are often most harmful, and even illegal.
Any questions that reveal your age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status and sexual orientation are off-limits.
“State and federal laws make discrimination based on certain protected categories, such as national origin, citizenship, age, marital status, disabilities, arrest and conviction record, military discharge status, race, gender, or pregnancy status, illegal. Any question that asks a candidate to reveal information about such topics without the question having a job related basis will violate the various state and federal discrimination laws,” Lori Adelson, a labour and employment attorney and partner with law firm Arnstein & Lehr, told us.
“However, if the employer states questions so they directly related to specific occupational qualifications, then the questions may be legitimate. Clearly, the intent behind the question needs to be examined.
“It is often easy to infer what the interviewer is really trying to find out from an otherwise illegal question. For example, if the employer asks “Are you a U.S. citizen?”, this question is a violation of the law. Although, the employer may just be (albeit very inartfully) attempting to find out whether the applicant is authorised to work in the U.S. The applicant can simply respond, that “That question is in violation of the law, but yes, I am authorised to work in the United States.”
If you are asked any inappropriate questions, Adelson advises not to lie, but, instead, politely decline to answer.
“Could they not give you a job because of that? Sure,” Adelson says. “But if they do, they would be doing exactly what they’re not supposed to do.”
We asked Adelson to provide us with some illegal interview questions that are often mistaken as appropriate and judicial.
An employer can't actually legally ask you about your arrest record, but they can ask if you've ever been convicted of a crime.
Depending on the state, a conviction record shouldn't automatically disqualify you for employment unless it substantially relates to your job. For example, if you've been convicted of statutory rape and you're applying for a teaching position, you will probably not get the job.
Although the interviewer may ask you this question to see how much time you'd be able to commit to your job, it's illegal because it reveals your marital status and can also reveal your sexual orientation.
Again, the employer may ask you this question to see your available time commitment with the company, but this question is inappropriate.
However, they are allowed to ask you directly if you have other responsibilities or commitments that will be conflicting to your work schedule.
If you have an accent, this may seem like an innocent question, but keep in mind that it's illegal because it involves your national origin.
Employers can't legally inquire about your nationality, but they can ask if you're authorised to work in a certain country.
It's not the employers lawful right to know if a language is your first language or not.
In order to find out language proficiency, employers can ask you what other languages you read, speak or write fluently.
Employers have to have permission before asking about your credit history and, like a criminal background history, they can't disqualify you from employment unless it directly affects your ability to perform the position you're interviewing for.
Similarly, they can't ask you how well you balance your personal finances.
Employers cannot ask about your drinking, or even legal drug use, habits because these inquiries are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.
For example, if you're a recovering alcoholic, treatment of alcoholism is protected under this act and you don't have to disclose any disability information before landing an official job offer.
This question allows employers to guess your age which is unlawful. Similarly, they can't ask you what year you graduated from high school or college or even your birthday.
However, they can ask you how long you've been working in a certain industry.
Employers may want to ask you this to see if your lifestyle interferes with work schedules, but this question reveals your religion and that's illegal.
They can ask you if you're available to work on Sundays.
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