Don’t put your business in jeopardy by being careless during the hiring and interview process. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines, as well as federal and state laws, prohibit asking certain questions of a job applicant, either on the application form or during the interview. What questions should you sidestep? The bottom line is that you basically can’t ask about anything not directly related to the job, including:
- Age or date of birth (if interviewing a teenager, you can ask if he or she is 16 years old)
- Sex, race, creed, color, religion or national origin
- Disabilities of any kind
- Date and type of military discharge
- Marital status
- Maiden name (for female applicants)
- If a person is a citizen; however, you can ask if he or she has the legal right to work in the United States
- How many children do you have? How old are they? Who will care for them while you are at work?
- Have you ever been treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist?
- Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?
- Have you ever been arrested? (You may, however, ask if the person has been convicted if it is accompanied by a statement saying that a conviction will not necessarily disqualify an applicant for employment.)
- How many days were you sick last year?
- Have you ever filed for worker’s compensation? Have you ever been injured on the job?
If you are even remotely in doubt about whether a question (or comment) is offensive or not, our advice is simple: play it safe and zip your lip. In today’s lawsuit-happy environment, an offhand comment can cost you, and cost you plenty.