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8 Questions in an Interview that Should Raise a Discrimination Flag

Some acts of discrimination can be blatant, while others are more subtle in nature. Job interviews are a prime example of this. Many questions may indirectly feed into the major areas of discrimination. Discover some questions to watch out for and what action you can take if you feel you have been discriminated against.

  1. “Are you planning on starting a family soon or do you already have children?” Questions about the number and ages of children are frequently used to discriminate against women and may violate Title VII if used to deny or limit employment opportunities.

  2. “How many sick days did you take last year?” Questioning a person over a disability and whether or not it would affect their ability to do the job is grounds for disability discrimination.

  3. “What country are you from?” While it is legal to ask about ethnic background on application forms, that is for monitoring purposes only and usually anonymous. It should never be brought up in an interview.

  4. “How old are you?” The only acceptable question related to age is to establish whether the applicant is the minimum age required for the role.

  5. “Have you ever been arrested?” While an interviewer may ask if you have been convicted of a crime, they may not ask if you have ever been arrested.

  6. “What religious holidays do you observe?” Only a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society, an employer can ask you about your religious affiliation or beliefs.

  7. “Do you have any outstanding debt?” Employers must have permission before asking out your credit history.

  8. “Do you socially drink?” Asking about your drinking habits violates the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990.

What can you do if you feel you have been discriminated against in a job interview?

Visit the Equal Opportunity Commission website and complete the assessment form to file a claim. The EEOC will contact your employer and they will be required to provide substantial responses to your allegations. If the EEOC determines the answers aren’t legitimate, the result could be a settlement or litigation.

Information requested in job interviews should be limited to that which is essential to determining if the candidate is qualified for the job. If you feel you have been asked questions outside that realm, it may be wise to contact a labor lawyer for advice. 


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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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