What Questions Are an Employer Not Legally Allowed to Ask Me at an Interview?

By | September 28, 2014

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At some point in your job search, you may walk into an interview with high hopes, but then leave feeling like you’ve just been interrogated. Every day, in offices and coffee shops and meeting rooms, people ask interview questions that are not legal at all. Unsuspecting candidates, who are just excited about getting an interview, don’t know how to respond.

Many job seekers just answer them, not realizing they are being grilled for no good reason by inexperienced or unethical people.  This can leave any job seeker squirming in their seat.

When Interview Questions Go Bad

To help you spot trouble in an interview, and protect your personal life, here’s a rundown of some questions an employer cannot legally ask during the interview.

 

Q.  Are you married?

Under current employment laws, an employer is not allowed to ask questions about your marital status, or lack thereof.  This also goes for same-sex couples, those who are widowed, or those going through a divorce or separation. However, be sure not to bring up your marital status in the interview, because if you mention it, this could be discussed casually in conversation.

 

Q. Do you or do you plan to have children?

No employer has the right to ask you about your fertility decisions at any point in the interviewing process. Making decisions about who to hire based on if a candidate has children, is pregnant,  or plans to have children in the future is illegal. Again, if you notice a family photo in the interviewing person’s office, don’t comment on this because it could lead to being asked about your status.

 

Q. Have you ever been arrested?

While you may see the question about criminal felony convictions on an application (which is legal to ask), it’s never OK for an employer to ask you about non-convictions. If you have been arrested in the past, or have a misdemeanor, it’s none of the employer’s business, period.

 

Q.  Is English your primary language?

This question is not legal to ask, because it implies that you are possibly from another nationality or world region. The employer can ask you what other languages you can read, write, or speak with proficiency. This has to be job related.

 

Q. Where do you practice your religious beliefs?

A person’s religious affiliation is off limits to employers.  This means, an interviewing person cannot ask you where you go to church, synagogue, or mosque. They cannot ask you about a religious pendant or tattoos depicting a certain belief system that you may be sporting either.

 

 Q. Do you have any debts we should know about?

While it’s common for most job seekers to have some types of debts, whether as a result of unemployment, college, or divorce; no employer has the right to ask about this. They may, however, ask you to submit to a credit report if you will be taking a job dealing with financials. Garnishments, debt collection, and other financial matters are your personal business, not to be discussed in an interview.

 

Q. Are you a drinker, drug user, or on regular medications?

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits interview questions concerning the use of controlled and non-controlled substances. If you are an alcoholic, drug addict, or on medication for any health concern, the employer has no right to pry. They may ask you to submit to pre-employment and random drug tests, so make sure you bring this up at the clinic where you are tested only.

 

Q. When did you graduate from high school? How long have you been working?

Age is a factor that employers often discriminate about. Be sure you do not answer this illegal interview question because you call fall prey to this kind of action.

 

If you are asked any of the above illegal interview questions, it’s always advisable to gracefully decline from answering them. You can say, “ Thanks for asking but I don’t feel comfortable talking about that”. Or simply change the topic by going back to talk about a point you wanted to make about another legal question you were asked.  If you are outright discriminated or harassed in an interview, be sure to alert the labor board in the state you reside in, then seek legal counsel from a lawyer who specializes in employment matters.

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