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Illegal Interview Questions for Employment

Updated on December 5, 2016

Are you kidding me?

I recently attended a job interview that left me stunned for words and woozie from discrimination. I was asked two very inappropriate and possibly unlawful Interview questions. The first being how many children I have. The question that surfaced in my mind, If I were a man, would I have received that question? The second question is the real doozie- they wanted to know if all my children were by the same father. I was totally insulted, and pondered upon the nerve of the director who asked me such a thing. These questions may be breaking the discrimination law, based on sex. This inappropriate question made me wonder what are some other inappropriate and highly speculative questions being asked in job interviews across the US.

Discrimination Laws cover the following Federally protected classes: race- Civil Rights Act of 1964, color-Civil Rights Act of 1964, religion-Civil Rights Act of 1964, national origin-Civil Rights Act of 1964, age(over 40)- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, sex- Equal Pay Act of 1963 & Civil Rights Act of 1964, Familial Status, disability- Vocational Rehabilitation and Other Rehabilitation Services of 1973 & Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and veteran status-Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974.

An employer should never participate in asking questions that are protected by the Civil Rights Act, and should discourage the potential employee from sharing such information. It is not an employer’s business to hear personal, protected, and potentially damaging information. The possible answers to such questions are based on conjecture and should not be allowed within the deciding factor of employment.


Acceptable Interview Questions

The Following are acceptable interview questions, that will save employers from themselves through biased curiosity, and should be standard among all interviews:

1. What is your previous job experience?

2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

3. Are you eligible to work in the US?

4. What schedules would you be able to work?

5. Can you perform the essential functions of the job?

6. Can you work on weekends(as long as weekend work is required)?

7. Are you over the age of 18?

8. Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

9. How would you handle or deal with certain circumstances that are unique to the position that is being applied for ( fill in the blanks).

10. What is your level of technical, management, sales experience, or any other essential job function unique to the position.

Employers that stay away from personal questions and practice asking questions relating to the individuals experience that aligns with the job being interviewed for will stay far away from Civil Rights Violations, and keep their companies out of harm’s way.


Illegal and or Inappropriate Interview Questions

The following list are illegal and or inappropriate, and should always be avoided:

1. How long have been in the United States?

2. What does your name mean?

3. How did you learn to speak Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, ect.?

4. Do you plan to have children?

5. What does your spouse do for a living?

6. Do you have children?

7. Do you all of your children have the same father?

8. What are your child care arrangements?

9. Do you have pre-existing health concerns?

10. Are you using medication?

11. What religious holidays do you celebrate?

12. How often do you attend church/

13. Have you ever been arrested, or caught driving drunk?

14. Was your Military discharge honorable or dishonorable?

15. Have you ever sued an employer?

16. Have you ever filed a Workmen’s Comp Suit?

17. How much is your current weight?


Curiosity Killed the Cat

Although an employer may think that the inappropriate questions are relevant they are not, and should never be asked. If an individual finds themselves in a situation where a question is being asked during an interview, or in the workplace you have a couple of different options:

1. You can ask for the relevance or the origin of the question?

2. Ignore and the change the subject.

3. Politely refuse to answer the question based on pertinence of the information.

4. Answer the question.

I caution you reader, the more that people allow, people will do. I know the economy is bad and jobs are difficult to come by, but please stand firm in your convictions. Employees are allowed a personal life, privacy. Although people have curious natures, we as employees cannot indulge those inclinations, if we do we open the flood gates of discrimination upon out desperate unemployed heads.

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    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 5 years ago from Idaho

      That is a good point!!! And I totally agree, that is why I was ok with walking away from that job- and it was a really good thing, because my dream job came knocking on my door. Thank you so much for your insightful comments:)

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Efficient Admin 5 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      Another doozy illegal question: Are you married? That sure takes a lot of nerve to ask if all your children are from the same father. I would really like to know what does that have to do with your qualifications for the job. I've heard a saying watch how you are treated at the interview - that it is a good sign of what you have to deal with if you get hired.

    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 5 years ago from Idaho

      ahhh thank you, brilliant points in your comments. Thank you for reading and commenting!! I decided that working for such a company would not be a good idea, I will hold out for some moral and ethical fiber. I also learned what you could and couldn't ask when I was a supervisor, but I had not actually ever been asked anything not scripted in a room with a panel of interviewers, so this little po dunk one in a small town really threw me. I am now hearing that it is still happening all over the place. I think sometimes managers/supervisors/owners think they can do what ever they want in this economy because people are desperate. Thanks again, your comments were a joy to read.~ Kimberly

    • Redberry Sky profile image

      Redberry Sky 5 years ago

      Really important points, k2jade31. For my first jobs I was asked all kinds of illegal questions, and I never realised the prospective employer shouldn't have been asking them. Then I worked for some larger companies and government departments and because I was doing the interviewing I had to learn the basics of employment law. Ethical interview questions should only ever be about experience, qualifications and the job under consideration, and it shocks me that any employers still think it's okay to ask anything else. I'd be very wary of working for a company that asked these kinds of dubious things, but if you really need a job, it's very hard to stand up to someone. Brilliant points in your Hub :)

    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 5 years ago from Idaho

      I know:) It was an easy decision, although I need a job. Thanks for reading and commenting~ Kimberly

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 5 years ago from Georgia

      Wow, I can't believe you were asked if your children have the same father! I guess once you get a question like that it's easy to make the decision of whether you want to work for that company.

    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 5 years ago from Idaho

      Thank you Ginger- appreciate you reading and commenting!! ~ Kimberly

    • profile image

      Ginger Ruffles 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your experience and bringing this practice to light. It's something we all need to be aware of.

    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 5 years ago from Idaho

      Wow, I guess it is possible that people just do not realize it is not legally OK, I just wonder how they think that morally it is OK to be so nosy??? Thank you for a perfect example of how an unknowing manager can cause real problems for the company they work for- thank you for your comments!


    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      k2jade31 this article reminds me of a time about 15 years ago when a senior manager assisted me in an interview. It was all going quite well, I asked behavioural interview questions and he asked one word response questions. He then asked the woman that we were interviewing about what her husband thought about her applying for the role! I went can't ask that question! I asked him to leave the interview, explained that he can't ask those types of questions and then apologise to the applicant while I finished off the interview. It's amazing that some people haven't been trained and think that they can ask illegal questions. Cheers Michael

    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 5 years ago from Idaho

      True story, this really happen last Thursday. Thank you for reading- and providing your great comments~ Kimberly

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      You were really asked those first questions? That is really sad! What is our world coming too? Great hub, up and useful!