It is the responsibility of any person in a hiring position to understand these laws and how they affect the company’s employment procedures and practices. Asking suspect questions leaves companies vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits. The very act of asking such questions sets up an implication that the company may use the answers discriminatorily. Yet, however expressed, the interviewer may have a legitimate reason for asking the question. Too often, job-hunters do not explore the reason behind the interviewer’s question. Regrettably, they automatically assume malicious intent when they hear an alleged illegal question, and may refuse an offer believing that the company isn’t the right working environment for them. Interviewing is expensive and time-consuming enough without any allegations of discrimination.
   As much as employers want the perfect “fit” for the job, this can be tough to discern. The art and skill of interview preparation is crucial. It is essential for the interviewer to develop an effective and focused interview strategy that matches an employer’s needs while complying with federal and state nondiscrimination employment laws.

Permissible Questions To Ask In A Pre-Offer Interview:
  • What is your name?
  • What is the address of your residence?
  • Are you over 18 years old?
  • Questions to determine whether an applicant can perform specific job functions. These questions should focus on the applicant’s ability to perform the job, not on any disability.
Impermissible Questions May Include The Following:
  • Age: How old are you? When were you born?
  • Disabilities: Have you ever been denied health insurance? Do you have any disabilities? What health problems do you have?
  • Ethnic Origin: What is your nationality? This is a Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc., company, do you think you would be happy working here?
  • Marital Status: Are you married? Are you a family man/woman? Do you have children?
  • Religion: Is that a Jewish/Christian name? Is there any day of the week that you are not able to work?
  • Sex: Do you date members of the opposite sex? What is your sexual orientation?
  • Personal Finance: What is your net worth? Do you have any debts?
Bottom Line

   All interview questions should be job-related. If you’re not sure about a question, determine the following: Does the question relate to business necessity? Does the question relate to the candidate’s ability to perform the tasks for which he/she is being considered? Just use some common sense and achieve the best qualified candidates while eliminating your company’s vulnerability!


Sheri Rosenthal is an attorney who practices all apsects of civil litigation and transactional work, primarily in the area of business law, construction and real estate law. Contact Ms. Rosenthal at [email protected]

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