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Job Interview on Your Agenda? Beware of these Questions!

Job Application ProcessA job interview is one of the most stressful parts of job hunting. Despite the excitement and opportunity of being offered the job, the initial stages of meeting a potential employer and making a good impression are tough.

The last thing anyone wants is more stress from inappropriate or illegal questions during the interview.

Everyone knows discrimination against employees is illegal, but what about when discrimination occurs before someone is actually an employee? Can a potential employer ask you discriminatory questions or treat you differently based on certain factors?

The answer is no.

Potential employers can ask questions to evaluate whether or not you’d be a good employee, but those questions must be related to your job qualifications and experience. Certain questions are off limits and if you are asked these questions in a job interview it should raise a red flag.

Some Questions Employers Can’t Ask During Interviews

Though some of the questions on this list seem innocent enough – nothing more than small talk to help an employer get to know you - these questions are actually considered discriminatory.

If you’re asked any of the following in an interview, you might have a right to file a claim of discrimination:

Do you plan to start a family soon? Do you have children? General talk about your family is acceptable but pointed questions about the number of children you have, their ages, or your intentions to begin a family can be an indication you’re going to be treated differently than candidates who have no family or personal obligations.

How old are you? Some jobs have a minimum age requirement, but otherwise, there’s no reason why a potential employer should ask your age during an interview.

Did you grow up in the United States? What country are you from? Checkboxes about ethnicity on applications are legal because they are used for statistical purposes, but if you’re asked in an interview about your ethnicity it’s considered discrimination.

Have you ever been arrested? Employers can ask, and usually do on the application, if you’ve been convicted of a crime. They cannot, however, ask if you’ve been arrested. An arrest cannot be used against you when applying for a job.

How many sick days did you use at your last job? Do you miss a lot of time from work? When an applicant is questioned about health or time away from work, it could be an indication the employer is discriminating against you because of a disability.

What church do you attend? What religious holidays do you observe? The only potential employers allowed to ask about an applicant’s religion are religious institutions, associations, schools, or businesses.

Do you like to drink socially? Though you might think this question is related to office social events, parties, working with clients, etc., asking about an applicant’s drinking habits is actually a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Do you have outstanding debt? Potential employers are allowed to inquire about debt and run a credit check on you, but they must get your permission first.

What to Do if You’re Asked a Discriminatory Question in an Interview

If you believe you’ve been asked a question that is in violation of discrimination laws, it’s important you report the incident. Chances are the company has discriminated against other applicants and possibly against its employees, and those involved need to understand their actions are illegal.

The website for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission makes it easy to report wrongdoing in an interview. You can learn more about the process on the EEOC website here.

Once you’ve filed a claim, the EEOC will investigate and provide you a response to your allegations. If it turns out there is evidence of discrimination, you might be eligible to file a discrimination lawsuit.

To discuss what’s appropriate in a job interview or to learn more about discrimination in the workplace, contact New York Employment Lawyer Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C..

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