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Was That an Illegal Interview Question?

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee or a prospective employee on the basis of the employee’s age, race, ethnicity, religion, sex, or national origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects individuals with physical and mental disabilities from discrimination in the workplace as well, and in many states, additional laws exist to protect individuals based on their gender identity and sexual orientation. Workplace discrimination comes in many forms, one of which is the use of subtle questions during interviews to “weed out” any applicants who do not fit the company’s image of the ideal employee. It is illegal to ask certain questions during interviews that relate to any of the protected classes listed above.

Interviewers do not always ask these questions in an attempt to discriminate. Often, they are asked out of ignorance or an attempt to connect with the applicant on a personal level. If you do not feel comfortable answering a specific question, do not feel compelled to answer it.

Examples of Illegal Interview Questions

Not all illegal interview questions are obvious. Below are a few examples of discriminatory questions that employers may not ask during interviews:

  • “What’s your native language?”
  • “What year did you graduate from college?”
  • “What are your current childcare arrangements?”
  • “Are you married?”
  • “Have you been arrested?” with this question, it is important to remember that while it is legal for an employer to ask if you have been convicted of a crime, it is not legal to ask if you have been arrested;
  • “How did you get that injury?” and
  • “Which religious holidays do you observe?”

If You are Asked an Illegal Interview Question

Ask the interviewer how his or her question relates to the job. The answer you receive will shed light on why the question was asked.

What you do following the interview depends on how the question impacted your job search or, if the interview was for a new position within your current company, how it can affect your current job stability and ability to advance. If the question or its implication have a negative impact on your ability to secure work or continue to earn a living, consider working with an employment lawyer to pursue a workplace discrimination claim.

Work with an Experienced La Crosse Employment Lawyer

You should never feel like you have to answer an illegal question or comply with any other type of discriminatory behavior from an employer or prospective employer. You can report discriminatory actions you observe to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but this is not always necessary or even worthwhile. An experienced employment discrimination lawyer can help you determine if your experience warrants an official discrimination report and if so, he or she can help you develop and pursue it. Contact our team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. today to set up your initial consultation in our office.

Published December 8, 2016
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