5 Questions You Have a Legal Right to Never Answer in an Interview
Under federal and state law, prospective employers are prohibited from asking questions that are not directly related to the job position they’re hiring for. Asking about religion, gender, color, race, birthplace, disability, national origin, previous salary, marital status or age on an interview is illegal unless job requirements are based on some of these criteria. Such questions are considered legal only if the employer demonstrates that they are BFOQs (bona fide occupational qualifications).
Age/Date of Birth
Employers may find themselves in a situation where it is required to determine the age of an applicant. If a company observes a standard age for retirement, the interviewer must be sure that the candidate is under that age. Or, for example, when a position is aimed at a candidate of minimum legal age (like bartender), inquiring about a candidate’s age is still prohibited. The interviewer may only ask for appropriate documents to be provided (certificate of birth, driving license, etc.) as a confirmation of age. Questions like How old are you? or What is your date of birth? are not legally acceptable. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, you have a right to avoid answering. You may choose to respond with My age is not an issue for my performance in this job.
An employer has a legal right to ask a few questions that relate to race and ancestry if they are pertinent to the job position. Questions like What languages you’re fluent in? and Do you have a legal right to work in the U.S.? are acceptable in the interview. However, when an interviewer asks such questions as Are you a U.S. citizen?, Is English your native language?, What race do you identify as? or Were your parents born in the U.S.?, a candidate is not legally required to answer. When faced with any of these questions, simply state that answering them won’t influence your ability to properly perform the job.
Questions relating to a candidate’s ability to perform specific tasks are not acceptable in an interview. For example, if an employer asks whether you’re able to carry things weighing more than 25 pounds, you have a right not to answer. Or, if the position you’re applying for requires standing/sitting for the entire shift and the employer wants to know if you’re comfortable with that, you have a right not to answer. Avoid answering questions related to any mental or physical limitations you may have. Job applicants with disabilities in the U.S. are protected by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
An employer has no right to take into account gender when assessing your ability to perform a job. However, it is unlikely that during a face to face conversation an interviewer won’t know the gender of a candidate. You should answer gender-related questions only when applying for a position that requires the employer to know your gender (for example, an attendant for a gender-restricted restroom or locker room).
Some job positions require a candidate to be able to attend late/early meetings or make business trips to distant cities or even countries. This is a reason why employers may wish to know about a candidate’s family status in order to ensure all tasks will be completed properly and without delay. Nevertheless, it is forbidden to ask whether you’re married, have children or inquire about the salary of your spouse. If asked about your marital status, simply state that you’re able to perform all duties regardless of being single, married or divorced.
How to File a Charge of Discrimination
If you believe you’ve been discriminated against by your employer or interviewer because of your gender, religion, disability, age, race, color or marital status, you have a legal right to file a charge of discrimination. Learn how to file a charge with PDFfiller in seconds here.