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Are Your Interview Questions Illegal?

There are certain things we know that employers are not allowed to ask at an interview. They can't ask about your family life, your religion, your race or sexual preference. Asking any of these questions could indicate intent to discriminate based on your answers, which is the whole point of an interview, right? To decide whether or not to hire someone based on his or her responses.

The key to ensuring your interview questions are legal is making sure the questions are relevant to the position and its essential functions and duties. Asking if an individual is married and has children is illegal. Asking if they are able to travel or work overtime is not.

Here are some more examples:

Illegal: When did you graduate high school?
Legal: Can you meet the minimum age requirements of the job as set by law?

Illegal: Do you celebrate any religious holidays?
Legal: We often work holidays and weekends - is there anything that will prevent you from doing so?

Illegal: Have you ever been arrested?
Legal: Have you been convicted of theft, embezzlement, or other similar crimes (if related to the job requirements)?

Illegal: Have you ever been treated for alcohol/drug abuse?
Legal: Can you perform the essential functions of the job?

At the heart of the differences in these questions is the need in one instance for the interviewer to take in information about the person's life and make the decision themselves as to how that will affect their function as an employee. These assumptions necessarily have to be made based on the interviewer's own prejudices and biases.

In the legal versions, the interviewer turns to asking the applicant questions about their ability to perform the essential functions of the job-if they are legally allowed to work by law, if they can fulfill travel requirements, if past behavior may put the company at risk-and letting the applicant answer that question for themselves.

If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings.

Our attorneys have more than 40 years dedicated to giving clients the attention, advice, support and empowerment they need to effectively meet their goals. We are committed to the principle that all persons shall have equal justice under the law. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304.523.8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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