Are you preparing to hire a round of new employees? Before you begin the interview process, it’s important to remember what questions should be avoided to stay out of trouble with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
What Should Be Avoided?
Employers are not allowed to make hiring decisions based on someone’s age, marital status, number of children, race, gender, religious beliefs, gender, disability or unemployment status. Any questions that relate to these topics should be avoided at all costs. Some examples of these questions include:
- Do you plan on having children in the future?
- Do you have someone who can take care of your children while you’re at work?
- Do you attend church?
- Are you a U.S. citizen?
- How old are you?
- What’s the story behind that scar?
- What is your ethnicity?
- Do you have any debts?
These questions are prohibited to ensure that applicants are hired based solely on their work experience, education and other qualifications instead of an irrelevant and discriminatory factor such as the color of their skin.
Are There Any Exceptions?
The majority of employers should avoid the types of questions listed above, but there are certain exceptions. If the job in question requires physical labor, then the employer might have been instructed to only hire applicants who meet a specific weight and/or height requirement.
Employers are also allowed to ask for demographic information such as race, ethnicity and gender on applications, so why can’t they ask these questions during the interview? Online applications typically include this information to track the type of people who are applying for jobs. This is completely legal as long as the information collected is not being used to make any hiring decisions.
Outside of these exceptions, employers should steer clear from digging into the applicant’s health history or personal lifestyle choices.
So, how can employers collect vital information from applicants if there are so many restrictions? Luckily for hiring managers and recruiters, there are alternative questions that can be legally asked to applicants to help you get the information that you need. For example, instead of asking if someone is a U.S. citizen, ask if him if he is authorized to work in the United States. Wondering if someone is old enough to work at your company? Don’t bluntly ask the applicant for his age, but instead ask if he is over the age of 18. Instead of asking someone when they plan on retiring or if they think they will become a stay-at-home mom after having children, ask about their long-term career goals. Ask applicants if they can perform the specific duties of the position instead of prodding into their health conditions and disabilities.
With these simple switches, employers will be able to avoid legal issues while still making informed hiring decisions.
After the Interview
These rules only apply to the actual job interview, so after a job offer has been extended, employers do gain more rights. For example, employers may need to know whether applicants are married or have kids in order to properly fill out insurance or tax paperwork.
After a job offer has been extended, an employer is also allowed to dig a little deeper into an applicant’s medical history. The job may even be offered to someone pending medical clearance, but only if this is the standard procedure for all new applicants. Employers cannot single someone out who they suspect has a disability and force them to go through this process.
As long as you stick to talking about someone’s prior work experience and qualifications, you shouldn’t run into any trouble during your next round of interviews.
Author Bio: Cortney Shegerian is an attorney with Los Angeles based Shegerian & Associates. Shegerian’s practice areas of expertise include discrimination, harassment, whistle blower retaliation and wrongful termination, among others. Her work includes all aspects of case management, with a particular emphasis on mediation, trial preparation and jury trial litigation.