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Illegal Interview Questions

Questions Employers Should Avoid Asking

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Businessman at job interview

Interview questions should be related to your qualifications for the job.

Klaus Vedfelt/Riser/Getty Images

Federal and state laws prohibit prospective employers from asking certain questions that are not related to the job they are hiring for. Questions should be job-related and not used to find out personal information.

In general, employers should not be asking about your race, gender, religion, marital status, age, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, sexual preferences or age.

However, job requirements based on an employee’s gender, national origin, religion or age can be used in very limited circumstances. They are lawful only when an employer can demonstrate that they are bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQs) that are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of business. 

For example, it's acceptable to require the candidate to be a Roman Catholic for a job as director of faith formation for a Catholic parish. 

Illegal Interview Questions

Employers should not ask about any of the following unless it specifically relates to the job requirements, because to not hire a candidate because of any one of them is discriminatory:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marital/family status

Your Options for Responding

What should you do if you are asked an inappropriate questions during a job interview? Here are some alternatives:

 - Answer the question.

- Answer the "intent" of the question. For example, if you are asked whether you are a United States citizen (not legal to ask), reply that you are authorized to work in the U.S., which is a question the employer can ask you and which is appropriate to answer.

- Try to change the topic of conversation and avoid the question.

- Refuse to answer the question which might cost you the job if you are very uncomfortable with the question. However, consider whether you really want to work somewhere where you are asked questions that are not appropriate.

Before You File a Claim

Before you file a claim for discrimination, you might want to consider that most discrimination is not deliberate. In many cases, the interviewer may simply be ignorant of the law. Even though the interviewer may have ask an illegal question it doesn't necessarily mean that the intent was to discriminate or that a crime has been committed.

Filing a Claim

If you believe you have been discriminated against by an employer, labor union or employment agency when applying for a job or while on the job because of your race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, or believe that you have been discriminated against because of opposing a prohibited practice or participating in an equal employment opportunity matter, you may file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

To file a charge, contact an attorney who handles labor issues or contact your local EEOC office:
Filing a Charge

Read More: How to Answer Illegal Interview Questions | Age-Related Interview Questions Employers Shouldn't Ask

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The private websites, and the information linked to both on and from this site, are opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance, or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only.

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