Four Interview Questions You Don’t Have to Answer (And That Employers Should Not Ask)

Just as employers cannot discriminate among employees based on race, age, disability, national origin, or religion, they cannot ask certain questions during interviews that relate to these categories.

  • “Are you a U.S. citizen?”  Questions about national origin, including questions about your citizenship, native language, or how long you’ve lived in the U.S., are legally prohibited.  However, employers can ask if you are authorized to work in the U.S.
  • “What religious holidays do you observe?”  Questions about your religious affiliation or practices are also prohibited.  Employers may legally ask about the days and times you are available to work, but they may not ask if you take certain days off for religious reasons.
  • “How old are you?” Employers may not ask how old you are or how much longer you plan to work before retirement.  They may, however, verify that you are old enough to legally perform the job you are seeking – for instance, by asking if you are over age 18.
  • “Our staff is used to having a man/woman in this position.  How will you handle this situation?”  Asking about a candidate’s sex is illegal, and so are questions that state or imply that the employer is making certain assumptions based on a worker’s sex.  Employers may ask what you, specifically, have to offer the company or how you will handle potential conflicts with coworkers.

If you are asked any of these questions in an interview, you do not have to answer them, but the problem is that anyone likely to ask them may take offense at your refusal to answer.  Most of the time, it is better to get the job first and then worry about the improper questions (and motivations behind them) later.

Once you are hired, your employer is still responsible for avoiding discriminating against you based on any protected personal characteristic.  The fact that they asked you these questions at the time of hire may tend to show an intention to discriminate.

If you believe your employer has failed to live up to this responsibility, you have certain legal rights.  As an experienced Seattle workplace discrimination attorney, I can help you protect your legal rights at work and seek the compensation you deserve when an employer violates those rights.  To learn more, call me today at (206) 324-8969 to schedule a free consultation.

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