What Questions Are Illegal to Be Asked in an Interview?

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It is no surprise that if you are being interviewed for a new job, you will be expected to answer a multitude of questions. The questions asked generally pertain to your previous experience and working knowledge of the industry and job expectations, however, it is also not uncommon for interviewers to ask more general questions such as “Tell me a little bit about yourself.” While open-ended, vague questions such as these are permissible, it is important to know that there are a handful of questions that are illegal for potential employers to ask you. These particular questions generally encompass topics that may leave room for discriminatory decisions and biases to be made. Furthermore, let’s explore some of the most commonly asked questions in interviews that are, in fact, illegal to be asked.

“Do You Have Any Children?”

The first question that is prohibited from being asked in an interview is “Do you have any children?” This question and other questions relating to one’s current or future familial status are considered discriminatory under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964

“What Religion Do You Practice?”

Interview questions relating to one’s religious beliefs are also prohibited by law. Making an employment decision based on religious or spiritual beliefs is considered to be discriminatory. In addition, a job applicant cannot be asked if they usually partake in any religious holidays or practices that may interfere with job expectations.

“How Old Are You?”

Another prohibited question in interviews is asking the interviewee’s age. This is because an employer may use age as a measure of an individual’s ability to perform or knowledge base, and thereby discriminate against them solely based on age. Furthermore, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years or older from being discriminated against because of their age.

“Do You Have a Criminal History?”

Asking an interviewee if they have a criminal history is also prohibited by law. In fact, in the state of California, asking questions regarding criminal records is prohibited under the Fair Chance Act, also known as the “Ban the Box” law. The caveat to this question is that while this question cannot be asked before a conditional offer of employment, it can be asked and further investigated after an offer has been issued. At this point, an employer may decide to rescind your offer of employment under stringent conditions imposed by law. 

“Are You Married?”

Asking a prospective employee about their marital status is also prohibited as it is indicative that you may intend to discriminate depending on an individual’s answer to the question. An employer may be enticed to ask this question as they are curious to know how committed the interviewee may be to their new role.   

“Are You a U.S. Citizen?”

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 prohibits employers from making hiring or firing decisions based on citizenship status. Therefore, the question, “Are you a U.S. Citizen?” is not permissible. However, an employer may ask you if you have the legal right to work in the United States or if you will need a Visa. Additionally, once an employee has been offered a position of employment, they will be required to complete an Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) Form which will then reveal their employment authorization status. 

What To Do If You Have Been Asked An Illegal Interview Question

In the event that you have been asked an illegal question in an interview, it is recommended that you contact an Orange County workplace discrimination attorney to learn about what your legal options are. They can ascertain whether you have been discriminated against in the interview process and protect your rights. In addition, they can help you to recover compensation for the discrimination that you experienced.