The Job Interview: Questions that are Necessary and Questions that are Off-limits

Interviewing for a job can be nerve-wracking. While the complexities of the interview process can deter your attention away from essential legal concepts, it is important to be attentive to what the interviewer is asking, especially in a legal sense. Potential employers should understand what they can and cannot ask of an applicant, but some may fail to recognize the severity of asking a discriminatory question. Questions along the following lines should always be avoided:

Age
During an interview, a potential employer may ask if the applicant is a minor or if they over the age of eighteen for legal adherence to labor laws. However, the interviewer is not allowed to ask what specific age the applicant is.

Children
Only after the applicant is hired may a potential employer inquire about an individual’s children, but solely for insurance purposes. A potential employer may not ask an applicant if they have children in their home, the ages of the children, and if they plan on having more children. Asking an applicant if they wish to bear children can be considered a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA),which is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The PDA protects individuals from being discriminated against on the basis of gender in the workplace or interview process if they are pregnant or plan on becoming pregnant.

Disability
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990was created to protect those with disabilities. Title I of the ADA refers to employment. An employer is legally required to provide reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities and are unable to discriminate against them because of their disability. During the interview process, an interviewer is only able to ask if the applicant can perform the necessary duties well and safely, as put forth in the job description. A future employer may not ask the nature or the severity of any such disability.

Gender
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, established under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, protects individuals on many discriminatory bases, including gender.Under the EEOC, gender discrimination is considered illegal in the workplace for both applicants and employees. During an interview, an interviewer is unable to make comments on a person’s gender, unless gender is a bona fide occupational qualification, which is an employment quality which is deemed necessary to carry out the essential functions of the position.

Race
Racial discrimination, like gender discrimination, is regulated and monitored by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Similar to gender discrimination, racial discrimination is illegal in the workplace, for both applicants and employees. Future employers may not ask any questions pertaining to race, including questions relating to physical appearance.

The interviewing process should not be discriminatory in any way. It is important to understand your rights as an applicant and as a future employee. If you feel that you have been discriminated against during an interview or in the workplace, it is crucial to contact an experienced New York Employment Law Attorney. Steven Mitchell Sack, The Employee’s Lawyer™, has successfully handled thousands of employment cases and may be able to help you address your concerns and achieve justice. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call (917) 371-8000 or fill out our contact form.

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