Illegal Interview Questions

June 17, 2018


The tricky thing nowadays is getting to the Interview when you are job searching. Not only do you have to have experience to get experience in entry level positions, but you can’t just go in to apply, and potentially be seen being diligent and sharp by the hiring manager, who goes ‘you’re hired’ as soon as you walk through the door, carrying their Help Wanted sign. You have to apply online. This opens the door for employers to have hundreds of resumes sent to them to weed out to pick a few potential candidates to then interview.


But say you make it to The Interview, and are dressed up to the nines, carrying a folder with a physical copy of your resume, your cover letter, five references, and all the luck wished to you on Facebook from your post this morning about the Interview you have at 11:00am. You make it there early, just in case. You wait for the hiring manager to get the chance to take you back. You make it to the side room the business set aside for the express purpose of quizzing their candidates to see who makes the cut.


Do or die, you complete the interview. You thank the manager, and leave in hopes that it went well, and you get a call back later. Nothing. Crickets, actually. You continue applying elsewhere, hoping for better. But do you know if you bombed the interview because they asked questions that are not acceptable by employment laws, or it was just your lack of experience?


Yes, that is right, there are questions that are considered illegal in a job interview, because of possible discrimination. The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) has laws that are in place to protect job candidates and employees from discrimination, to offer an equal chance for everyone to be employed.


There are topics and questions employers are not allowed to ask about at an interview. Some questions come up when it gets a little too personal, like seeing on your resume that you went to Great Mills High School, and they are also an alumni, that gets them to ask what year you graduated. That could be considered discriminating, because they could figure out the age of their candidate. Maybe they come right out and ask if you could work with a younger manager leading. That can still be considered discriminating against a candidate due to age. Others, like asking if you or how many kids you have, even if you were the one to bring up the topic to show your ability to multitask, can be discriminatory.


The subjects that employers are not allowed to discriminate against are:

  • Race or Ethnicity

  • Age

  • Disability

  • Genetic Information

  • Gender Identity

  • Sexual Orientation

  • National Origin

  • Religion

  • Marital Status

  • Having Children

  • Being Pregnant

  • Plans to Start a Family


While those topics are off the table asking about at an interview with you, an employer may cover topics that determine if a candidate is fit for the job by asking specifically about carrying out exact tasks and responsibilities related to the job the candidate is applying for. This would be where they ask if you are able to carry up to 50lbs without assistance or stand on your feet for eight hours with only their allowed breaks in-between.


If you feel that your were or are being discriminated against in the workforce, please contact Fanning Law today to discuss your options. If you are an employer, or start up company, and looking to hire, but want to be mindful of what landmines might await you in the interview process, and want to know the state and federal laws, contact Fanning Law for a consultation today.


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