Anyone who’s ever been put through an interview sometimes feels like they’ve had to face the firing squad, and that the questions can be used against you at any time or place. But the applicant does have some rights, and there are some questions that are illegal under Federal or State Laws. Let’s look at why this is the case:
Why are these kinds of questions illegal?
Primarily because they are a form of discrimination. Even though discrimination is, to some extent, human nature, it doesn’t make for good business conduct. Many of these laws are made to protect people in case of racial, sexual, age, or other kinds of discrimination, Let’s look at a few of the questions cannot ask an employee.
How Old Are You?
This is illegal because the Federal Government has a law signed in 1967 called the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers over the age of 40. In addition, sometimes the law can be used to specify age groups. For instance, a 51-year old being the oldest worker at the company and terminated, later to be replaced by a 43-year old man may also be construed as discrimination. Instead, the interviewer should simply ask if the person is over the age of 18.
Are you married?
Yes, being discriminated against for being married does happen. The belief is if you’re married, and your spouse leaves his or her job and relocates, that the person will then quit the company. Even if you get asked “Should I call you Miss, Mrs. or Ms.?”, that is illegal and you do not have to answer that question.
Are you a U.S. Citizen?
Hiring of illegals has been a problem that people have been trying to curb for years, but in 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act made it that you cannot ask that question when you’re hiring someone. However, it is legal to ask “Are you authorized to work in the U.S.?”, and then require documentation (the I-9 Form) when the person is hired.
Do you have any disabilities?
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act made this question illegal. In fact, employees are actually required, within reason, to accommodate people with severe mental or physical disabilities. In 2001, this law was relaxed a little to indicate that the disability had to interfere with the person’s life on a daily basis. A better question to ask is “Are you able to perform all the duties of your job, with or without reasonable accommodation?”.
Do you take drugs, smoke or drink?
Asking this question sounds valid. Who wants to have someone who can’t perform their duties because they are constantly drunk or high? But there is a more professional manner with which to ask the same question. If the interviewer asks if the person has ever been disciplined for violating the company’s tobacco, alcohol or narcotic policy, that is legal. There is a fine line because the interviewer is not allowed to ask you if you take prescription medication.
What is your race / What is your religion?
If someone directly asks you this question, you should immediately REFUSE to answer under all circumstances. There is never a good reason to ask this, even with Affirmative Action firmly in place, but remember that Affirmative Action is voluntary. Protection because of race, gender, color, religion or national origin has been granted under Title VII which was signed in 1964.
What should you do if you feel you have been discriminated against?
Laws vary somewhat from state to state, so check with your state’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Office and see what the laws are. And talk with someone who knows the laws and can explain to you what your rights are. Never forget that the days of slavery are past us: You should never be mistreated on a job, nor should you be mistreated before getting the job.
Louise Baker is a freelance blogger and journalist who writes for Zen College Life, the directory of higher education, distance learning, and online degrees. She most recently wrote about the best online nursing schools.
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