We are taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. Click here to find out what our firm is doing.
Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP

What You Can and Can't be Asked in an Employment Interview

You got the interview. Now it is time to put your best foot forward and make a great impression. Anyone who has looked for a job knows that a job search can be exhausting and emotionally fatiguing for even the most resilient job seeker. So, what happens when an employer asks inappropriate questions during an interview? More importantly, how do you know whether the questions are appropriate? Can you spot an unlawful or discriminatory question?

Spotting Improper or Unlawful Interview Questions

Keep in mind that an employer is searching for someone who will not only be great at the job, but someone who will be a good fit for the company or organization. After all, the prospective employer will likely be investing a good deal of money in hiring and training you, as well as lost productivity while you are getting up to speed on the new job. For these reasons, it makes sense for an employer to be cautious about whom they hire.

Some may look at this in terms of inappropriate questions, but it may be more helpful to consider what topics are inappropriate. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) outlines a number of improper and “​prohibited practices​” with respect to hiring. With this in mind, here are a few simple, but all too common examples, of inappropriate interview topics, provided by our knowledgeable Long Island employment attorneys:

Age

Employers will rarely come right out and ask you how old you are. Doing so opens them to a potential claim for age discrimination. Instead, employers may look for subtle clues, such as when you graduated from high school. If you are applying for a position as an accountant, this is probably quite irrelevant, except for determining your age. Some employers may try to make small chat about things like whether you remember certain TV programs or other generationally-linked cues.

Marital Status

Most employers nowadays know better than to directly ask whether you are married. Instead, they may again look for clues. This could mean asking things like:

●  “Is your family supportive of the move?”

●  “Is your husband’s career flexible enough for you to take on this responsibility?”

While these may actually be entirely harmless and valid questions in some limited circumstances, in general they indicate that the employer is considering your​ ​marital status​ as part of the equation.

Kids and Sexual Orientation / Identity

We put these together because they generally come up in the same sentence in casual interview conversations. An interviewer who wants to determine a prospective employee’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or other inappropriate information may ask questions about family or kids to demonstrate the organization’s ‘family focus.’ Here is how those questions sometimes sound:

●  “Do you have children?” If the answer is yes, a follow up may sound like:

●  “Will your spouse be staying at home with the kids?”

●  “What does your spouse do for work?”

As you can probably imagine, there is no good answer. If a person responds by saying they have children but no spouse, one type of employer may use this to determine they do not fit the

‘family friendly’ culture of the organization. Yet, if the response is a same-sex marriage, it could also be a negative. In other words, these types of questions often are designed to “weed out” individuals who are otherwise perfectly qualified, based solely on discriminatory factors.

Other Common Topics

While age, sexual orientation, family status, and similar concerns are among the most common types of inappropriate interview questions, there are plenty of other ways to discriminate, such as questions that implicate:

●  Religion

●  Race

●  Ethnicity

●  National origin

●  Pregnancy

●  See​ ​EEOC​ for more examples

Contact the Employment Lawyers at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe Today

If you have faced hiring or employment discrimination in New York or you suspect that you have been the victim of discrimination or wage violations, call the experienced employment lawyers at the Law Office of​ ​Cohen & Jaffe, LLP​ today.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Trusted & Respected