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6 questions that are off-limits for potential employers

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2022 | Employment Law |

Federal anti-discrimination laws apply to all aspects of employment and hiring practices. Applicable laws also address seemingly neutral policy that negatively affects protected groups. While there are some exceptions, these laws help to ensure that employers’ decisions involving workers and applicants are based on job-related issues.

It is true even before hiring potential employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) identifies these questions (or similar ones) and their answers as potentially leading to bias and discrimination. They include:

What is your race?

The employer’s intention may be to meet diversity goals or for affirmative action programs. However, they should not use this information when considering the applicant for employment. The information can be gathered separately or removed from the job application before making decisions.

Are you disabled or have a disability?

This question must wait until extending a tentative job offer, which should involve the employer asking the candidate about any accommodations necessary for performing their job. Employers cannot ask about the severity of the disability and related questions until there is a medical examination, which must be required for all new hires if it is used at all.

Do you plan to have children?

We recently dove deeper into the topic of children and pregnancy. Traditionally this was considered discrimination against women or evidence of intent to discriminate. Variations of this question involve marriage plans, family plans, number of children, the children’s ages, childcare arrangements, or a spouse’s profession.

When did you graduate?

This is an indirect approach to inquiring about an applicant’s age, which is off-limits to employers.

Where do you go to church?

Unless the job is at a religious institution, religious affiliations and beliefs have no bearing on the applicant’s ability to perform their job. Once the employer extends a conditional job offer, they can inquire about religious holidays or other religious accommodations.

Are you a U.S. citizen?

Citizenship questions violate nation of origin protections. Employers can ask about eligibility to work in the U.S., but not citizenship status. Verifying the work status via the E-Verifying process cannot occur until the applicant accepts the job offer.