A bad hire will cost you—but a discrimination lawsuit will cost you more.
About one-third of the more than 2,000 surveyed business managers have admitted they weren’t sure about the legality of certain interview questions. If you’re a business owner or hiring manager, you may believe that you have a handle on what you should and shouldn’t ask, but did you know that there are questions that could actually land you in court? No matter how much experience you have with interviewing, there still seems to be a fine line between what’s ok and what’s lawsuit worthy. Here are some of the most common interview questions to steer clear of:
1. How old are you?
While it seems innocent enough, asking someone for their age is a no-no during interviews. It is ok, however, to ask if a candidate is 18 years or older because this lends to verification of work eligibility with your company.
2. What church (or synagogue) do you belong to?
As a rule, stay away from any questions about religion or religious affiliations. This topic is one that’s protected by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is ok to ask a potential employee if they are available to work during certain holidays due to scheduling, but directly touch upon one’s religious beliefs and you might find yourself in trouble.
3. Are you married? Do you have kids? Are you planning to start a family?
Any questions that dig into the applicant’s personal life can cause a lawsuit, so avoid them at all costs. They are illegal because they can insinuate discrimination against a person based on gender, marital status, or the fact that they have kids. If you must know about contenders’ ability to work a certain amount of hours or their accessibility to travel, ask directly about scheduling.
4. Do you have a lot of debt?
While it may seem logical to ask about a person’s financial situation, a question like this can be considered discriminatory. If you must know, request that applicants fill out a release that allows you to run a credit report.
5. What country are you from?
If an applicant clearly speaks with an accent, it may be tempting to ask them where they hail from. But doing so poses the possibility of cultural heritage discrimination. If speaking English properly is required to do the job, you can ask a prospect whether or not they speak the language fluently.
6. Do you have a disability?
Seems like a legit question—especially if the position you’re hiring for requires certain capabilities. But asking could cause you to be sued. A better route is to describe the position requirements and ask if they are able to fulfill any physical tasks that the job may entail.
7. Do you drink or do drugs?
Even if they do, would a candidate even answer this question truthfully? The reality is, even if you’re concerned that this person may have a drinking or a drug problem, you aren’t allowed to ask. Your best bet is to do mandatory drug and alcohol screening on all candidates as part of the application process. This eliminates the possibility that you’d be accused of discrimination.
8. Who are you going to vote for?
Questions that relate to politics are considered crossing the line and should be avoided. A person’s political affiliation should have no bearing on their ability to do the job, but some folks still bring the topic up to get a feel for their candidate’s personality and preferences. Do yourself and your company a favor and stay away!
9. Have you ever been arrested?
It only makes sense that if you’re going to hire someone, you want to be sure that they are trustworthy. But this question can be construed as a form of discrimination. However, depending on the state you operate your business in, this may not apply to you, so do your homework ahead of time. In most cases though, inquiring about criminal history is only allowed if the offense is directly related to the job you are trying to fill.
10. Is it possible you will be deployed?
Believe it or not, some companies do discriminate against veterans or those in the reserves. The fear is that they will hire this person and then soon after, he or she will be deployed. And while it seems like a fair question, it can land you in court. Asking about a candidate’s military status should always be avoided.
When interviewing potential hires, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Unfortunately, lawsuits are more common than any of us would like to believe. In addition to avoiding these questions, make sure that your company is protected with Employment Practices Liability insurance. This type of business insurance will cover you in the event that you are accused of several different discrimination claims. For more information on EPLI or any other business policy, give us a call at 305-648-7070 or fill out or online request form.