You did it. Finally, that coveted job interview you’ve been waiting for comes to fruition. You do your research, practice answers to typical interview questions and bought a new suit. You’re going to nail it.
But then, what starts out as a great interview turns uncomfortable. The person you meet with begins by asking you about your professional history – and then, out of the blue, asks you for your age. She then asks you when you plan to marry and have children, and how many kids you want. You desperately want and need the job so you answer her questions – but it doesn’t sit right. It’s uncomfortable and feels wrong. When you get home, you worry that your answers about your personal life and age are going to keep you from getting the job – even though you are more than qualified. Is this supposed to happen?
No. Absolutely not. It’s illegal under federal law for an interviewer to ask such questions while interviewing a job candidate. Yet a lot of companies do it.
A survey by job site Careerbuilder found that about 20 percent of hiring managers have asked illegal questions during a job interview, only to realize it later. A third of those surveyed admitted that they didn’t know what was illegal and what was not.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces civil rights’ laws, mandates rules that prevent potential and current employees based on certain protections, such as age, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin and others. That means a hiring manager can’t ask questions that might seem okay, but actually have an illegal motive to discriminate. Off-limits questions include:
1. What religion are you?
2. Who did you vote for in the presidential election?
3. What is your race?
4. How old are you?
5. Do you have children or plan to?
6. Are you pregnant?
7. Do you have any debt?
8. Do you have disabilities?
9. Do you drink?
10. Are you straight?
There are questions a prospective employer is allowed to ask you. He or she can ask if you are over the age of 18, if you are willing to undergo a background check and if you are able to perform the duties outlined in the job description. If the hiring manager crosses the line, you might be better off working somewhere else.
If you believe you were turned down for a job because of your age, race, marital status or for another discriminatory reason, it’s important that you speak to a California employment attorney as soon as possible.
Sacramento, CA 95821