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Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy

Which job interview questions are illegal?

On Behalf of | Jul 14, 2022 | Employment Law |

A job interview is an opportunity for an exceptional candidate to show what makes them stand out from the competition. It is also an opportunity for businesses to weed out applicants that don’t meet their criteria or that won’t fit with their corporate culture.

Interviews often involve a combination of personal conversation and discussion of someone’s education and work history. Interviewers should do their best to learn about an individual without seeking personal information that could trigger internal biases and lead to discrimination.

There are certain questions that interviewers should not ask because they lead to employment discrimination.

Questions about your relationships or family plans

Especially for female applicants, questions about whether someone hopes to get married or have children in the next 10 years can seem friendly but may lead to discrimination. Employers often assume that women who will have children will leave their jobs or perform poorly despite a wealth of evidence to the contrary.

Your relationship status and whether or not you have children or intend to have children should have no bearing on whether or not you are qualified for the job.

Questions about your health

Employers can only make health inquiries related to a worker’s ability to perform job responsibilities. Even if you require accommodations to do the job, there is no rule forcing you to disclose a disability during an interview, and companies may violate your rights by asking direct questions about medical conditions. Your medical conditions should play no role in whether you get a job or not unless those medical issues would prevent you from doing the job.

Questions that don’t relate to the job

You should not have to answer questions about your race, sex or sexual orientation. Any questions that force you to provide information about protected characteristics, like your adherence to a lesser-known religion, the race of your ancestors or how many generations of your family have been in the country, could potentially lead to discrimination.

There are scenarios in which employers can ask some of these questions without violating the law, but they will need to prove that they would not factor those details into their decision making for the job. Those who believe that inappropriate questions in their interview and the answers that they gave led to the loss of a career opportunity may be in a position to take legal action.

Learning more about how employment discrimination occurs in interviews to help you protect yourself from this kind of business conduct.