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Employers and Employees Should Know Their Rights

Did you know that there are some questions an employer may not ask? It is illegal to bring some things up in a job interview.

It happens; employers try and ask illegal job interview questions, but in such a way that they don’t sound like one of the “no-no” questions. This is illegal and no matter what way they try to phrase their question, you are protected from being discriminated against unfairly. Be on your toes and know which questions are illegal and why the question “is” illegal.

It’s a major tenet in the US that no one may be discriminated against because of their nation of origin, color or race. This law is enshrined in the Civil Rights Act (1964) and was later expanded to other groups. An example of an illegal question in this area could be: “ Since you’re Mexican and don’t speak English that well, how do you think you will fit in with an all English speaking work crew who doesn’t speak Spanish?”

If you happen to be Catholic or Protestant or Muslim, the interviewer cannot ask you what religion you are and this right also comes under the auspices of the Civil Rights Act. Even a question that comes out like: “Is your family involved in church activities?” is not allowed.

During your job interview you may not be asked anything that refers to pregnancy, marriage or sex. This ban is imposed by the Equal Pay Act (1963) and someone who tries to ask if you are planning on having more children (or any children) is way out of line.

Another Act that you may be familiar with is the Wagner Act (1935) that protects individuals from being discriminated against due to any affiliations with groups, most often unions. That means the interviewer may not ask if you have ever been a member of a union. Nor may they ask how old you are, so if they try and sneak in a question about birthdays, be on your guard. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (1967) takes care of that illegal question. Age may be relevant if you are under 18-years old and are applying for a job that requires years of training in a particular skill. Nonetheless, they are still not allowed to ask that question.

Asking someone if they have physical or mental disabilities is also illegal and a potential employer may not ask this is any way, shape or form, not even “Would you require medical support while working?” There is one rather gray area here, and that relates to someone who may need a larger screen to see properly or a special chair. These requirements may be discussed; however, it’s usually the applicant that brings this up by way of mentioning what they need to work there, not because the employer asks. People with disabilities are guaranteed protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (1964).

Keep in mind that just because these questions are not allowed to be asked doesn’t stop someone from asking them anyway. Why would they do that if they’re not allowed to ask them according to the law? That’s the issue; they aren’t aware of the law. However, having said that, not knowing the law when you are an employer is no excuse. For those of you who are asked questions like this, you have the right to refuse to answer them.

Seth Wilburn writes for the The Gomez Firm, a Dallas employment lawyer and Dallas business lawyer. To learn more, visit Gomezlawyers.com.