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Friday, March 23, 2012

9 Common Interview Questions That Are Actually Illegal

by Vivian Giang
During job interviews, employers will try to gather as much information about you as possible, so there's bound to be some questions that will require you to think.
But it's the simple questions that are often most harmful, and even illegal.
Any questions that reveal your age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status and sexual orientation are off-limits.
"If you look at the broad picture, the [interview] questions you're asked have to be job-related and not about who you are as a person," Lori Adelson, a labor and employment attorney and partner with law firm Arnstein & Lehr, told us.
[Related: Things You Shouldn't Say in an Interview]
If you are asked any inappropriate questions, Adelson advises not to lie, but, instead, politely decline to answer.
"Could they not give you a job because of that? Sure," Adelson says. "But if they do, they would be doing exactly what they're not supposed to do."
We asked Adelson to provide us with some illegal interview questions that are often mistaken as appropriate and judicial.
Have you ever been arrested?
An employer can't actually legally ask you about your arrest record, but they can ask if you've ever been convicted of a crime.
Depending on the state, a conviction record shouldn't automatically disqualify you for employment unless it substantially relates to your job. For example, if you've been convicted of statutory rape and you're applying for a teaching position, you will probably not get the job
Are you married?
Although the interviewer may ask you this question to see how much time you'd be able to commit to your job, it's illegal because it reveals your marital status and can also reveal your sexual orientation.
Do you have children?
Again, the employer may ask you this question to see your available time commitment with the company, but this question is inappropriate.
However, they are allowed to ask you directly if you have other responsibilities or commitments that will be conflicting to your work schedule.
What country are you from?
If you have an accent, this may seem like an innocent question, but keep in mind that it's illegal because it involves your national origin.
Employers can't legally inquire about your nationality, but they can ask if you're authorized to work in a certain country.
Is English your first language?
It's not the employers lawful right to know if a language is your first language or not.
In order to find out language proficiency, employers can ask you what other languages you read, speak or write fluently.
Do you have any outstanding debt?
Employers have to have permission before asking about your credit history and, like a criminal background history, they can't disqualify you from employment unless it directly affects your ability to perform the position you're interviewing for.
Similarly, they can't ask you how well you balance your personal finances.
Do you socially drink?
Employers cannot ask about your drinking, or even legal drug use, habits because these inquiries are protected under the American Disability Act.
For example, if you're a recovering alcoholic, treatment of alcoholism is protected under this act and you don't have to disclose any disability information before landing an official job offer.
How long have you been working?
This question allows employers to guess your age which is unlawful. Similarly, they can't ask you what year you graduated from high school or college or even your birthday.
However, they can ask you how long you've been working in a certain industry.
What religious holidays do you practice?
Employers may want to ask you this to see if your lifestyle interferes with work schedules, but this question reveals your religion and that's illegal.
They can ask you if you're available to work on Sundays.