Bernabei & Kabat, PLLC

202-745-1942

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Were you asked an illegal question in your interview?

During an interview, employers cannot ask you deeply personal or inappropriate questions. However, other questions that seem innocent can lead to bias against you. It may be difficult to tell the difference.

What are illegal interview questions?

There are interview questions that are forbidden by state and federal laws because they lead to discrimination against the applicant. Employers also cannot ask questions unrelated to the position. These include questions about the following:

  • Religion
  • Sex or gender
  • Race, color, ethnicity,
  • National origin, birthplace
  • Credit status
  • Age (including graduation year)
  • If you are married or if you have children

The final two are especially important for women age 20-45. They could indicate an unwillingness to provide maternity leave or family benefits. However, if you are applying somewhere that has a religious affiliation, such as a religious administrative office, it may be reasonable that they ask if you are religious.

What should you do if they ask you an illegal question?

If the interviewer asks you a question that you know is illegal or inappropriate, it can deliver an emotional shock. It is understandable that you’d feel upset and unsure what to do next.

You may choose to respond with something like “I don’t feel that issue is relevant to the position” or “I don't like to discuss my personal life at work but I can assure you that I can perform all the duties that the position entails.” You can address the intent of the question while politely refusing to answer it.

If these efforts fail, you always have the option to refuse to answer the question or to end the interview. If the company does not respect people during the application process, they are not likely to respect people when they are employees.

You have the right to feel respected during the interview process and for them to consider your application fairly. If a company violates those rights, you can choose to file a formal complaint to protect yourself and future workers.

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Bernabei & Kabat, PLLC
1400 16th Street, NW
Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: 202-745-1942
Fax: 202-745-2627
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