Illegal Interview Questions Employers Ask

July 27, 2018 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Illegal Interview Questions Employers Ask

What Kind of Questions are Illegal in an Interview?

Job interviews are conducted to get the measure of a prospective employee through interpersonal questioning. If you've made it as far as the interviewing stage, its safe to say that an employer is at least interested in you but now they want to know more and in person. This can be a terrifying prospect for some people in a world that likes to make judgments about people based on race, age, gender, sexual orientation, etc. Luckily, there are laws put in place to prevent discrimination within the workplace so that everyone is guaranteed a fair and equal chance to employment. As part of these anti-discrimination laws, an employer cannot ask certain questions during an interview. This is because certain questions inquire into certain aspects of an interviewee's life that should have no bearing on whether or not they should be employed.

How do I Know if an Interview Question is Illegal?

If an employer asks you a question that inquires into an aspect of your life that is not directly relevant to the job you are applying to, then it could possibly be illegal. Questions that have to do with your race, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disabilities, national origin, religion, and ethnicity are all off limits.

Examples of Illegal Interview Questions

Are You Married?

This question can reveal several things about a person that is being interviewed. Not only does it reveal a person's relationship status but can potentially reveal sexuality which is another thing interviewers don't need to concern themselves with.

Do you have kids?

This question could be asked by an interviewer to determine if your family could affect your level of dedication to the job. An alternate version of this question is “Do you have or are planning to have children?”. This version leans more towards women and could be used to find out if an employer has to worry about maternity leave much like the question “are you pregnant?”. Either way, questions relating to your children have no bearing on job qualification and are illegal to ask.

What's your religion or do you celebrate religious holidays?

Religious discrimination can be an issue for many interviewees since certain religions have sacred holy days where followers of that religion do not work or have other requirements dictating dress and diet. Some interviewers may circumvent this question by asking if you are able to work Sundays, if you will be able to wear the uniform, etc. Sometimes it's not about work availability and interviewers may simply be prejudiced. The bottom line is your religion should have nothing to do with a job.

Where are you from?

There a lot of different facets to a simple and seemingly innocuous question such as this. On one hand an interviewer could be curious about your ethnicity or race. On the other hand they could be wondering what your national origin is. Also, they could be wondering about whether English is your first language. None of this should have anything to do with job qualification. This question has many variations that range from “Where are your parents from?” to “Where is your accent from?”. All are illegal to ask and you do not have to answer.

How old are you?

Experience is important when considering someone for a job but age and experience are not mutually exclusive factors. The same goes for age and the ability to perform a job. A lot of the time, employers may not be as brazen to ask your age outright since its typically in impolite thing to ask but will instead inquire through questions like “When did you graduate college?” and “how long have you been working?”. These questions are equally illegal but they can instead ask questions about how long you have been working in a certain industry.

Have you ever been arrested?

It is illegal to ask if someone has ever been arrested as an interview question. However, it is legal to ask if someone has ever been convicted of a crime. Just because someone has been arrested, does not mean that they were guilty of a crime but answering yes may look bad to an interviewer which is not fair.

Do you have any outstanding debts?

A job interviewer really has no business knowing your private financial situation. Some occasionally do ask this kind of question since some consider financial standing as part of job qualification which is illegal. An employer needs permission before inquiring into your credit history in a similar way to how permission is needed to inquire about past convictions.

What do I do if I'm Asked an Illegal Interview Question?

If you are asked an illegal interview question then there are several approaches you can take. Just because a question may be illegal, there are certain instances where it may not really be an issue in terms of the job you are applying for and you may choose to answer truthfully. If you are applying to a job at and you think a truthful answer to an illegal question would work in your favor then by all means go right ahead. Sometimes interviewers are not well versed in what questions they can and can't ask and may be be asking a question not as a way to determine if you are qualified for a job but because they are interested in a non-professional capacity. It really depends on the situation since it can go either way. Sometimes it may feel like answering an illegal question truthfully could hurt your chances at getting a job. In that case you could choose to decline to answer and inform the interviewer that equal employment law dictates that the question they are asking is illegal. On the other hand this response can feel suspicious or unfriendly which might seem to hurt your chances at a job. Employers have to respect an interviewee's privacy and if refraining to answer an illegal interview question is used as grounds to deny a job then legal action can be taken.

Seek an Experienced Employment Law Attorney

If you or a loved one have been discriminated against in the workplace based on your, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, or national origin, then do not hesitate to Contact Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA about receiving a free consultation on your claim. Our skilled lawyers have the expertise that you will need to secure the compensation you deserve. Contact us at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA's offices. Please call us at 727-451-6900. Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 800 North Belcher Road Clearwater, FL 33765 727-451-6900


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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