If you’re new to the hiring process you might think you can ask the job candidate anything that will help you determine if you’re making the right hire. But asking seemingly “innocent” questions could land you in hot water with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). To ensure fairness and to make sure no one’s being discriminated against, the EEOC has very specific guidelines when it comes to what employers can and can’t ask during a job interview.
Here are five things never to ask a prospective employee:
1. “Are you a legal U.S. citizen?”
You cannot ask about someone’s citizenship status in an interview. According to the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), that question is illegal. However, you can ask the person if they are authorized to work in the United States. Then make sure employees know you will need to fill out an employment eligibility verification (I-9) document.
2. “How old are you?”
According to the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA), you can’t ask a person’s age unless candidates must be a specific age to legally perform the duties of the job, such as being at least 21 in order to serve alcohol.
3. “Do you have any mental or physical disabilities?”
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), you can’t ask anything about the person’s health, mental or physical disabilities or drug and alcohol addictions. You may simply enquire whether the person can perform the duties required by the job. If you’re not sure you’re being compliant with any disability issues, the ADA has a hotline to help.
4. “Are you married? Do you have any kids?”
To be safe, it’s always best to stick to non-personal issues in an interview, but know that asking about marital status or asking if the interviewee is pregnant or planning to have children is off limits. Instead, you can inquire about any time limitations on the person’s schedule, or whether the person would have a hard time traveling if the job requires it.
5. “Are there any religious holidays or hours that would limit you from performing your required hours?”
Religion should never come up in an interview, ever. Religious beliefs are protected by the First Amendment. Instead, ask: “Are you able to work all required days and hours of the job?”
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