Avoiding Legal Liability In An Interview

Avoiding Legal Liability In An Interview[1]

Federal and state laws have been created to protect, not only employees, but applicants from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national original, age and disability or genetic information. Many employers believe explicitly and directly asking questions in interviews concerning these inherent characteristics only subjects them to legal liability. This could not be further from the truth. Casual conversation pieces, possibly even icebreakers, can run afoul of these federal and state protections as well. Employers should take precaution with interview questions like the ones explored below.

  1. Where Are You From?

Although a wonderful icebreaker, this question should not be asked in an interview. This question can be interpreted as an inquiry into race, ethnicity or national origin. This can be seen as a disguise to an employer’s curiosity about the ethnic background of the applicant. Similar questions include asking where an applicant’s parents are from or what language is spoken in his or her home. Now, if an employer is interested in an applicants geographic ties, geography does not need to be totally avoided.

  1. Do You Have Children Or Plan To?

This question suggests gender stereotypes that could be welcomed or unwelcomed by the employer. It can implicate favor or disfavor towards women as well as laws designed to protect the LGBT community. Interviewers will attempt to establish rapport with the applicants and it is natural to discuss topics that are not job-related. However, employers should beware that questions such as this can suggest bias or discriminatory conduct.

  1. What Year Did You Graduate?

This can cross the line of violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Educational experience can be explored in interviews, but graduation years can be interpreted as a variation of an age inquiry.

Interviews are opportunities for the employer and applicant to get a sample of the possible future working relationship. This encounter can be personable but the questions and topics examined should never leave the professional sector and enter a personal realm.

[1] Refer to 5 Questions Employers Should Never Ask In Job Interviews, http://www.law360.com/employment/articles/756720?nl_pk=060bbb0d-095d-429b-93f5-a4f6d5b578df&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=employment, last visited Feb. 16, 2016