Keep Your Company’s Job Interviewing Questions Legal
Fair hiring guidelines became laws over four decades ago to give all job seekers equal opportunities during interview and selection processes. Yet today, employers still question applicants about forbidden and insulting topics that are unrelated to job duties and performance.
A recent CareerBuilder survey found that at least one in three businesses is unsure if specific interview questions are legal for HR and hiring managers to ask contenders. And one in five has posed an illegal question unknowingly.
Sample Illegal Topics
CareerBuilder provides a sampling of typical interview questions that companies didn’t realize are illegal:
- What’s your ethnicity, race, or color?
- Do you have any disabilities?
- What’s your age?
- Are you in debt financially?
- What’s you marital status?
- Do you have kids or plan on starting a family in the future?
- What political party do you support?
- Are you pregnant?
- What’s your religious preference?
- Do you smoke or drink socially?
Why Protected Class Inquiries Are Off Limits
Asking any questions about protected classes like race, nationality, gender, age (40 plus), military status, and religion is illegal, advises HR attorney Charles Krugel. Other employment lawyers and experts describe why under law interviewers shouldn’t ask these common questions.
Who cares for your kids while you’re working? Even if prospective employees mention having children voluntarily, law prohibits you from basing hiring decisions on gender stereotypes, explains Tom Spiggle. You can’t assume that parents have a lower work commitment than childless people.
But if positions require working evening hours, you have the right not to offer jobs to candidates who mention being unable to stay after 5 p.m. because of their young children. Basing decisions on applicants’ work restrictions rather than improper stereotyping is acceptable.
When do you plan to have children? You can’t judge job seekers’ work dedication by whether or not they’ll have future children. Davida Perry suggests wording questions carefully to measure potential employees’ devotion. Try “What hours are you available to work?” and “Do you have any commitments outside of work that will hinder certain job duties like traveling?”
Asking noticeably pregnant interviewees when their babies are due can be problematic, cautions Lisa Schmid, because discriminating against pregnant women is unlawful. Some states have laws prohibiting explicit pregnancy questions.
What caused that limp, scar, or any other physical irregularity? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) goes beyond prohibiting discriminating against people with actual disabilities to include those you can regard as disabled, warns Kelly Kolb. The ADA forbids you from questioning candidates about physical qualities that reflect actual or perceived disabilities.
Don’t ask applicants to reveal their medical histories or describe how their conditions affect their work abilities. But you may ask if prospective workers can perform essential job functions with or without special accommodations.
How often do Army Reserve deployments occur? Kolb says that employers can’t make hiring decisions according to military memberships or active-duty schedules. Essentially, you can’t ask about the effects of applicants’ military service on their abilities to work for your company.
Do you have an arrest record? You may ask if courts have convicted candidates with committing crimes. But legally, you can’t inquire about arrests or nights spent in jail, counsels Shari Shore. Judges may have dismissed cases without convictions, or courts may have lowered original charges to lesser ones.
Understanding which questions company reps do and don’t have legal rights to ask job applicants protects interviewers and interviewees, explains CareerBuilder’s Chief HR Officer Rosemary Haefner.
Despite hiring managers’ harmless intentions, she warns that job seekers could claim employers used certain questions to discriminate against them. Such inappropriate inquiries might set you up for legal action.
National PEO offers a full scope of employee recruitment services to avoid these problems. Our human resource experts advertise your job openings according to labor laws and find recruits through many additional sources. Consistent resume´ evaluation, interviewing, and selection practices are key to following fair hiring laws.
Our interview process is uniform to treat all applicants equally and impartially. We know which standard questions to ask and which problematic ones to skip. National PEO professionals stick to questions about contenders’ past work performance and capabilities to perform essential job duties. Then we wrap up our turnkey services with candidate evaluations, reference and background checks, and onboarding paperwork so quality new hires can get to work.