Interview Questions that are Illegal

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What is an Employment Interview?

An employment interview is one of the major aspects of the overall hiring selection process for employment.  Interviews usually consist of a set of questions that the employer asks the candidate for employment.  This is done so that the employer can evaluate the person in terms of their qualifications for the job.  Employment interviews must be conduct according to strict regulations, in order to prevent unfair practices such as employment discrimination.

What are Illegal Interview Questions?

Illegal interview questions are generally considered to be those that are discriminatory in nature.  That is, the employer cannot ask questions that might be used to put the applicant at a disadvantage when compared to other candidates.  One characteristic of an acceptable interview question is that it relates closely to the job position being applied for. 

For instance, many state laws make it illegal to ask if a person has been arrested.  However, in some cases, the employer may be allowed to ask if the person has been convicted of a specific crime that relates to the position (for instance, asking if the person has ever been convicted of theft, if they are applying for a job that requires h handling valuable goods).  

Another example of an illegal interview question if the employer asks, “Where were you born”, or “Where were your parents born?”  Such questions might be interpreted as discrimination based on the person’s national origin or country of origin, which is illegal.  Instead, the employer should ask whether the person is authorized to legally work in the United States. 

Lastly, inquiring about a person’s disability is one of the more common illegal interview questions that gets overlooked.  It is illegal to discriminate based on a person’s disability.  What the employer needs to ask is whether the person can safely and fully perform the function that will be required of them during their work.  Similar issues can arise with other questions that involve the applicant’s marriage status, educational attainment, children, or age. 

What Should I Do if I am Asked an Illegal Interview Question?

Many people might be concerned that if they fail to answer an interview question, it might put them at a disadvantage.  However, candidates for employment have the right not to disclose any information that they feel is discriminatory or illegal in nature.  If the violation is serious, they may wish to file a report against the interviewing company.  This may require filing with a government employment agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In many cases, it can happen that large numbers of persons may have been affected by a company’s hiring policy.  This can result in a class action suit in which several different parties participate.  Such lawsuits can be complex and generally require the assistance of an employment attorney.   

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Concerns About Illegal Interview Questions?

Employment interviews are a necessary step towards obtaining employment.  However, they need to be conducted according to state and federal requirements.  If you feel that you have been discriminated against during an interview, you may wish to hire a lawyer for assistance in filing a claim.  Your attorney can provide you with the legal information and advice that is necessary for your claim, and can represent you during the court meetings.

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Last Modified: 07-02-2013 12:16 PM PDT

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