View Full Version : Are there illegal interview questions?

12-19-2007, 08:25 PM
Over in this (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=448385) thread, a question has been raised about whether interview questions about one's race, religion, family, etc. are "illegal" or "legally unadvisable."

There seems to be ample pages on the net that call certain questions "illegal," but there doesn't appear to be a clear statute saying that such questions are punishable by the authorities. According to some in the thread, asking those questions simply means that one could open up one's self to a discrimination lawsuit, which is more a matter of avoiding a legal hassle, rather than being prohibited in and of itself.

So, what's the deal? Is simply asking one of those questions prohibited by law, or is it just a really dumb thing to do?

Defensive Indifference
12-19-2007, 08:34 PM
If it helps.... In a previous thread (here (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=253246&page=2&pp=40) ) it looks like it was determined that some questions are illegal -- in and of themselves -- in Michigan. (Start at post 45.) Gfactor referenced that thread in the discussion in the new thread.

12-19-2007, 08:39 PM
Discrimination based on certain attributes such as gender, race and age is illegal. According to the interview training that I have had over the years, asking questions such as the ones posed in the linked thread are not themselves illegal but are a bad idea. If I ask questions about a prospects nationality and don't offer them the job, they could make the claim that that was the reason.

Another common but similar misconception that people have is that it is illegal to fire someone without giving the at least three warnings. Again, it's done for legal ass covering.

Come to think of it, I am an engineer but I have had a shit load of legal training over my career and spend more time than I should protecting myself and the company against law suits. What a waste.

Harriet the Spry
12-19-2007, 09:14 PM
There are some illegal interview questions, but there are many more that create a legal risk for the company without being explicitly illegal to ask. The ADA does explicitly prohibit asking about disability. Based on years of experience in HR, that is the only one I'm aware of that is part of US Federal law. However, Bayard is right to point out that a complete answer will depend on what state you are in. Some companies may have policies against asking the legally risky questions and therefore include them on lists of "prohibited" questions.

12-19-2007, 11:25 PM
Gathering any information regarding race, age, sex, family history, etc in the interview stage opens a huge liability problem for an employer. As stated above, once an employer has this kind of information it makes it extremely difficult to defend against charges of discrimination in the hiring decision.

Defensive Indifference
12-20-2007, 07:29 AM
Over in the other thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=448385), hekk found a good source from the UNLV law school. This seems to indicate that there is a hodgepodge of state and federal rules that do prohibit some questions outright, but still leaves a lot of ambiguity. I don't know how to do the go-to-a-post thing -- hekk's post is #50.

12-20-2007, 08:23 AM
I believe there are 3 main fed anti-discrim statutes - Title 7 (sex, race, creed), ADA (disability), and old age discrim act (not sure of the specific name).

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.