Three dangerous interview questions employers should never ask

Employers face many issues when hiring employees. No shows, quitting without notice, quitting with notice, actions that warrant disciplinary write-ups, poor performance, workers comp claims, unemployment…you get the point.

The long list of things that an employer must navigate when hiring other people to work for them is long and full of potential mistakes. These risks start even before you hire your first employee. According the EEOC, “It is illegal for an employer, employment agency or union to take into account a person’s race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information when making decisions about job referrals.”

Even before beginning the process of hiring someone, you should make sure that you are compliant with EEOC regulations.  Failure to do this can cost you anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands. During an interview, there are some key questions that can trip employers up. See below for the top three job interview questions employers should never ask.

Below are some of the key questions you should never ask a person in an interview.

1. Do you go to church/are you religious?
“Questions about an applicant’s religious affiliation or beliefs (unless the religion is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ)), are generally viewed as non job-related and problematic under federal law.” (EEOC.gov). Generally, it is illegal to make hiring decisions based on a person’s religious beliefs. There are exceptions to this rule: when a religious belief specifically relates to the job. According to the EEOC, there is only one circumstance when you can ask someone if they are religious. That’s if you are doing hiring for a church or religious organization in which case you are exempt from this requirement.

2. Do you have children/Do you need childcare? Asking about children or making reference to children is a no-no. These questions can be viewed as an intent to discriminate when asked of male or female applicants (although these are ok to ask once the individual has been hired–just make sure you’re asking for a job-related reason.)

The EEOC has the following to say:
“The following pre-employment inquiries may be regarded as evidence of intent to discriminate when asked in the pre-employment context:
Whether applicant is pregnant.
Marital status of applicant or whether applicant plans to marry.
Number and age of children or future child bearing plans.
Child care arrangements.
Employment status of spouse.
Name of spouse.”

3. How old are you?  Age discrimination for anyone over the age of 40 is illegal. “Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people who are age 40 or older” (EEOC).   While this federal law does not provide protections for individuals under the age of 40, asking age-related questions is a bad practice and should not be used to make hiring decisions. On top of the fact that age has very little to do with an individuals’s qualifications, many states have protections for individuals under the age of 40.   In general, avoid this question.  The exception to this rule is if you have a job-specific requirement, for example, only being able to hiring people over the age of 18 for a bar-related employment.  Even then, only ask the individual if they are over the minimum required age–because that’s all you need to know.

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.