Questions Employers Cannot Ask You During An Interview
During the interview process, employers are not allowed to ask you questions relating to protected characteristics, health, or financial status. This is to protect you from being discriminated against during your interview and the hiring process overall. If you are denied a job because you have refused to answer the following illegal interview questions, you may sue for the job, lost wages, and benefits.
- Age – Since it is illegal for employers to discriminate against workers who are 40 or older, employers are barred from asking questions about your age, birth date, or asking for information that would identify you as being over 40. However, employers can ask about your age and birth date after they hire you; they can also ask if you are 18 or older to comply with child labor laws.
- Race, Color, National Origin, Nationality, and Ancestry – Employers may not ask you any non-work related questions based on race, color, national origin, nationality, or ancestry. Job recruiters are also prohibited from engaging in recruitment activity that excludes or classifies people based on race, color, national origin, nationality, or ancestry. Employers are also not allowed to require you to attach photographs of yourself to the job application, but they are allowed to require a photograph after you are hired.
- Immigration – Employers can ask if you are legally eligible to work in the U.S. They can also choose to hire a U.S. citizen over someone who is not if both are equally qualified. However, they cannot discriminate against you due to your citizenship, primary language, or immigration status.
- Gender and Gender Identity/Expression – In order to prevent gender discrimination, employers are not allowed to ask applicants for their sex or gender, information about their children or family responsibilities, pregnancies, or reproductive health decisions in pre-employment paperwork or during interviews. In regards to gender identity and expression, employers cannot discriminate against an applicant based on the gender they identify as or the gender they are perceived to be based on appearance and behavior.
- Sexual Orientation – Employers cannot ask questions about your sexual orientation.
- Marital Status – While employers can ask if you have used other names for work or school, they cannot ask about whether you are single, married, divorced, widowed, separated, living with a domestic partner or with someone with whom you are not married to, or have children without being married.
- Pregnancy – Employers are barred from asking about your plans to have children, methods of birth control, and related topics.
- Religion – Employers may not ask you what religion you practice or what religious holidays you observe and if you need days off to observe them, unless you are applying to be head or clergy of a religious organization.
- Disability – Employers cannot discriminate against you if you have a disability, as long as you can perform the functions necessary for the job, with or without reasonable accommodations.
Questions Based on Association
- Memberships, Associations, and Politics – While employers can ask you about job-related organizations that you belong to, they may not ask about whether you are involved in any labor organizations or whether you would support a union. This can be considered unlawful intimidation under the National Labor Relations Act. Employers also cannot ask you about your political beliefs or the race, nationality, or sex of your friends.
- Military Service – Employers may not ask about military service, unless it is to give veterans a hiring preference or to inquire about relevant job skills learned in the military.
- Arrests and Arrest Record – While employers generally cannot ask about arrest records, they can ask about an arrest for which an applicant is out on bail or is pending trial. Other exceptions include if the applicant is applying to work at a nursing facility, school, or the government, where a detailed criminal history is important to examine. However, employers cannot deny someone a job just because they were arrested, and should consider all factors and allow the applicant to explain the situation before deciding on denying them the job.
Questions Related to Finances
- Credit Rating – Employers cannot ask applicants about the following unless it is job-related: current or past credit ratings, assets, liabilities, debts, bankruptcies, wage garnishments, and whether they own or rent their home. Examples of jobs related to finances include: managerial positions, law enforcement positions, and other positions requiring access to financial reports or transactions.
- Family Support Payments – Employers cannot refuse to hire someone because they pay child or family support. Any employer who violates this law has to pay a $500 civil penalty, according to Family Code section 5290.
- Bonding – Employers may not ask you to provide a cash bond, but they can require you to be bondable and pay for the bond.
Examples of Specific Prohibited Questions
- “Were you ever injured on the job?”
- “Did you use any sick leave last year?”
- “Do you take prescription drugs? Which ones?”
- “Do you drink alcohol?
If an employer has asked you any of the above, you can contact our office to file a lawsuit to protect your rights.