5 Questions An Interviewer Isn't Allowed To Ask — And Why

Posted on: 20 October 2020

Employment discrimination can be hard to spot, but it can devastate your career and income earning potential. It even begins as early as the interview process. Learning to recognize questions that can result in discrimination is vital to protect yourself from unwarranted — and often illegal — rejection. Here are a few questions that may seem innocent but can cause such discrimination.

"How Old Are You?"

Did you know this question is actually illegal? The reason is age discrimination. By asking your specific age, employers can weed out applicants that may be too old (often costing more in salary due to experience) or too young (appearing to lack experience). While an employer can ask if you are over 18 (or 21, in certain circumstances), this is the limit of what they need to know. 

"Do You Have Kids?"

Asking about family matters is often presented as casual conversation, but it's the basis of a number of discriminatory behaviors. Some employers prefer not to hire women with children because they believe family responsibilities will take away from the worker's commitment or their ability to devote more time to work. Hiring based on gender, marital status, pregnancy plans, or similar personal issues is against the law. 

"What Holidays Do You Enjoy?"

What could be wrong with asking about holidays? This seemingly innocent question can lead to discrimination based on your family situation. If you talk about the importance of a big family Christmas with your kids, you reveal information about your home life that the employer doesn't need. The second problem is that holiday discussions can tell the employer about your religious beliefs, which is a protected subject under employment law. 

"Have You Ever Claimed Workers Compensation?"

Worker's compensation claims cost the employer, but they are your right as an employee. So, while it's clear why the interviewer would want to know the likelihood that you will file a claim, this information is no business of theirs. 

"Have You Been Arrested?"

Questions about your criminal or legal history can be tricky. Interviewers are allowed to ask about criminal convictions, but they may ask instead about arrest history which is not the same thing. Any past arrests do not generally have to be disclosed. Similarly, any private legal matters not related to your job performance are your own affair, not the employers. 

Clearly, discriminatory and illegal questions during an interview can be hard to catch. Employers who practice unlawful hiring measures can be good at hiding their intentions and couching questions as somehow relevant to your employment.

If you think you may have been the subject of this type of employment discrimination, your first step should be to consult with an experienced employment lawyer in your state. By doing so, you not only protect and defend your rights but also the rights of those who come before and after you. Learn more by making an appointment today.