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Common Job Interview Questions That May Be Illegal


Job interviews can be nerve-wracking experiences even for the most confident individuals. During these small windows of one-on-one face time, your prospective employer will ask you a series of questions designed to gather as much information about you as possible to determine if you are a good fit for the position. But did you know that there are limitations on what your interviewer can legally ask?

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and several other laws, interviewers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on protected characteristics such as their sex, race or national origin, age, marital status, disability, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs, and may not ask questions which reveal this information. While some of these are quite obvious, others are more subtle yet may still reveal information which your interviewer is not legally permitted to consider. Being aware of these tactics can allow you to recognize these questions for what they are and ensure your rights are protected.

Illegal questions to watch out for include:

  1. Have you ever been arrested? – While employers can legally ask whether you have been convicted of a crime, you may not be asked if you have been arrested.
  2. Are you married? – This is one of the most loaded questions you can be asked, so it makes sense why it is illegal. Answering this question can disclose a much larger amount of information than you realize, such as your sexual orientation, your personal relationships, or even if you have kids – all of which are protected.
  3. How is your health? – Employers may not ask you anything about your physical characteristics, such as your health, weight, height, disabilities, or even how many sick days you took at you last job. With that being said, they may ask you if you are capable of performing certain physical activities related to the job, such as regularly lifting items weighing up to 50 pounds.
  4. What is your religion? – This is a major violation, though employers may ask regardless to determine scheduling for weekends or holidays. Instead, employers may show you a schedule and ask if you are able to work those days, or even flat out which days you are and are not able to work.
  5. Do you have a history of drinking/smoking/using drugs? – This one is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as it asks about your past and can potentially also tie into your health. Whether you may be a recovering alcoholic, addict, or not, your employer is not allowed to ask. However, they can ask if you are currently using any illegal drugs.
  6. What country are you from? – While asking about your accent may seem like an innocent question, keep in mind that it is illegal because it involves your national origin. Employers may not ask you about your nationality, though they may ask if you are authorized to work in a certain country.
  7. How long have you been working? – Employers may not ask questions which allow them to guess your age, including asking when you graduated from high school or your birthday. They may, however, ask how long you have worked in a particular industry.

Fight Discrimination with Shellist Lazarz Slobin

If you have been discriminated against in the workplace or rejected for a job due to some sort of protected characteristic, you may be able to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in pursuit of justice. At Shellist Lazarz Slobin, our trial-tested Houston employment law attorneys have been fighting to protect the rights of workers since 1994 and are prepared to work tirelessly to maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome for your situation.

Find out more about what our team of experienced lawyers can do for you by calling (713) 352-3433 or by filling out an online form today.

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