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Can They Ask Me That? Five Examples of Illegal Interview Questions You Do Not Have to Answer

Despite laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 designed to eliminate discrimination in the workplace, discrimination does still happen. As an employee, be vigilant to instances of discrimination so you can be a better advocate for yourself and others. Below are five interview questions that employers are not permitted to ask applicants because they can be used to obtain personal information that can then be used to discriminate against the applicant. For more examples of illegal interview questions, speak with an experienced employment lawyer.

Where Were You Born?

It is illegal to discriminate against an individual based on his or her national origin. By asking this question, an interviewer may be attempting to determine whether the applicant was born outside the United States. Similar questions include:

  • Where is your family from?
  • Which language did you grow up speaking?

How Many Children do You Have?

Some employers are reluctant to hire parents because they assume that parents will be less devoted to the job than non-parents. Similarly, an employer might attempt to determine if an applicant will take parental leave with questions about whether they plan to have children in the future or add to their families.

When did You Graduate from High School?

Age discrimination is defined as the unfair treatment of workers over the age of 40. By asking an applicant when he or she graduated from high school or completed a similarly age-related milestone, an interviewer is indirectly asking the applicant’s age.

Which Holidays do You Celebrate?

Asking an individual about his or her holiday celebrations could be a way to ask about his or her religion. Similar questions include:

  • What are your dietary requirements?
  • Where do you worshipDo you go to church? And
  • Which charities do you support?

Do You Play Sports?

It is illegal to discriminate against an individual based on his or her health or disability. Asking about sports or fitness activities could be an indirect way of asking an individual what he or she is physically capable of doing. Asking about the ability to lift items of a certain weights and complete any other physical task is permissible if it relates to the job requirements, but simply asking about one’s hobbies to glean his or her ability level is not.

Work with an Experienced La Crosse Employment Lawyer

Discrimination in the workplace is not always blatant. As you can see, sometimes it can be disguised as small talk or simple workplace banter. If you are asked any of the questions listed above or similar questions about your personal life, politely deflect the question and return to the interview. If you feel that you were not hired for a discriminatory reason or that you faced discrimination during your time at a company, consider working with an experienced employment lawyer to pursue a discrimination claim. Contact our team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. today to set up your initial consultation.

Published February 28, 2017
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