To ensure you have the right people at your company, you want to make sure you are making the right hires – both based on ability and if they will fit your company culture. However, you have to be very careful about getting this information, as certain questions are illegal to ask during a job interview.
Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA)
The EEOA prevents employers from asking questions in a job interview that can lead to discrimination against a job candidate. You cannot ask questions related to:
- Sexual orientation or gender identity
- Country of origin
- Marital status
- Family status
- Salary history (in some states)
Even if you are not discriminating against a client based on that information, the candidate might interpret that you are and can file a claim against you.
Common Job Interview Illegal Questions
When you’re interviewing a job candidate, you might be trying to make small talk and get to know the person – or put them at ease – by asking some personal questions. While this might help you get to know the person, you cannot ask certain questions, as their answers might be used against the applicant.
This can be difficult to avoid. Some of the most commonly asked illegal questions are:
- Are you married? This might be an easy ice-breaker question, but it is on the “do not ask” list. The answer is irrelevant to how a candidate would perform at a job. Plus, it can lead to possible discrimination claims if the person reveals they are in a same-gender marriage. A person’s sexual preference cannot be asked about during an interview, and cannot be held against a person.
- Do you have children? Again, this is a great get-to-know-you question. However, you cannot ask it as the answer could be held against the candidate. If they tell you they have 10 kids at home, or infant triplets, you might start wondering if they will have time to dedicate to the position. Instead, you can ask if they have responsibilities that will interfere with certain job requirements.
- How old are you? You cannot ask a job candidate their age. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects workers over 40, so asking an older candidate their age during the interview process can lead to a lawsuit. Even if age wasn’t the deciding factor, asking the person can give them the material they need to file a lawsuit. However, you can ensure employees are over the age of 18 if you need your employees to be older than 18 to operate certain equipment or perform certain jobs.
- Do you have a disability: Candidates are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so you cannot discriminate against applicants with disabilities. While you cannot ask if a person is disabled, if they have an obvious disability, such as if they are in a wheelchair, once they are hired you can ask about what accommodations they will need.
- What country are you from? You cannot ask if a candidate is an immigrant, or inquire about their national origin. However, you can ask if they are legally able to work in the U.S.
- What is your ethnicity? Candidates are protected from revealing their race or ethnicity. You cannot ask a person this during an interview, or it will surely lead to a lawsuit.
- What religion do you practice? You also cannot ask a person what religion they practice. This information can be used to discriminate against a candidate. However, if you are concerned a person’s beliefs or practices will prevent them from working certain days, like Sundays, you can ask if there are any days they are not able to work or ensure they can work Sundays.
Get Legal Help Before Conducting a Job Interview
As you can see, it can be very easy to violate the laws when it comes to interviewing job candidates. To ensure your company is conducting fair interviews and is complying with the laws, you need to consult a business attorney. An attorney can review your list of interview questions and hiring practices and let you know if they see any red flags.
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