Interviewers, Ask these 5 questions and you may get sued

If you are someone who is responsible for hiring employees, it is very important that you are very careful when you are interviewing possible candidates for employment. Some questions, while seemingly innocent, can result in a discrimination lawsuit against your organization. Fortunately, there are ways to get the information you need without making your company vulnerable to a lawsuit. 

Illegal Question #1:  "What Religious Holidays do you observe?

As an employer it is natural to want to know about any potential scheduling issues before hiring an employee.  Discrimination on the basis of religion is forbidden by the law.  If you ask this type of question, it could make your business susceptible to a lawsuit, even if the candidate's religion had no part in your hiring decision.  

If you want to avoid a potential lawsuit, you can just ask about the candidate's availability without mentioning religion.  A candidate's faith should never be a part of your conversation.  

Illegal Question #2:  "Typically, we employ a man/woman for this position.  Can you can handle this job?

Discrimination on the basis of gender is illegal.  Bringing gender into the conversation should be avoided at all costs.  

If you talk about the candidate's gender, it could lead them to believe that your decision is being based on their gender.  If you want to avoid a lawsuit, leave gender out of the conversation.

Illegal Question #3: "Are you planning to have children?"

Asking questions that could involve marital or parental status can also open you up to a lawsuit.  While it is understandable that you would be worried about a candidate's lack of accessibility due to parental obligations, this is still not a legitimate question to ask during an interview.  

If you require this type of inquiry and then employ somebody else, it could cause the rejected candidate to believe that you didn't hire them because they have children or are married.  Just like the religion question, you want to ask questions about availability directly, without bringing up children or marital status.  

Illegal Question #4:  "How old are you?"

Discrimination on the basis of age can also be considered actionable.  When it comes to age, the only line of inquiry that is acceptable is whether or not the candidate is legally old enough to work.

One of the reasons interviewers will wonder about a candidate's age is because they want to know how long the candidate plans on working at their company. In this case, the interviewer should ask what their long-term career plans are instead of bringing up age. 

Illegal Question #5:  "Do you take drugs?"    

This question may seem legitimate, but it's actually an illegal question.  Asking this question could lead the candidate to believe that they are being asked about prescription medication. 

It is illegal to discriminate against a candidate on the basis of a disability or medical condition. This type of question can leave your company wide open for a lawsuit.

It is easy to get sued for discrimination, but if you exercise good judgment when interviewing candidates, you can avoid having issues arise. If the candidate brings up any of these subjects themselves, you will need to steer the conversation away from that subject as smoothly as possible. If you're not sure which questions are acceptable and which are not, consult with an attorney or HR professional.

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