FAQ Friday – What questions shouldn’t be asked in a job interview?

Do you have any job openings at your business? Do you have a plan in place to make sure your interview and application process follows legal guidelines?

Here are some questions and answers taken from the guide to lawful applications and interviews created by the Idaho Department of Labor and Idaho Human Rights Commission. Please download a pdf of the full guide for additional information.

How can I know whether my interview questions are discriminatory?

Understanding what discrimination is should help a great deal. Additionally, answering the following questions should help employers avoid most discriminatory inquiries during the pre-employment interview. 1) Do my questions tend to have the effect of screening out persons in protected groups? 2) Is the information I requested really necessary to judge the individual competence for the performance of this particular job?

Am I allowed to have specific physical requirements for a job?

Yes, but only if they are really necessary for the particular job.

Do discrimination laws apply to temporary workers?

Yes. Temporary workers are generally covered under the anti-discrimination statutes. This is because they typically qualify as employees of the temporary firm, the client to whom they are assigned or both.

May an employer give applicants tests to determine illegal use of drugs?

Yes, but keep in mind, as with all pre-employment screenings, an employer should ensure that all applicants for a position are subjected equally to the screening device, whether or not they are members of a “protected class.”

May an employer ask about the economic status of the applicant?

Rejection of an applicant because of poor credit ratings has an adverse impact on minority groups and may be illegal. As a result, inquiries about bankruptcy, car ownership, rental or ownership of a house and past garnishment of wages should be avoided during a pre-employment interview.

May an employer ask about police records?

An employer should not automatically assume that applicants who have a police record are not capable of doing the job. A fair opportunity should be given to applicants to prove their merit even though they may have a police record. A conviction may or may not be relevant to the particular job in question. An arrest alone does not mean an applicant has committed a crime, and using such records as an absolute bar to employment can have an adverse impact on some protected groups. Each case must be weighed on its own merits.

What about questions on race, age or religion?

Do not ask any questions about race, sex, religion, age, ethnic group, national origin or ancestry or disability. They may be discriminatory and should be avoided.

What are some examples of other questions that should not be asked?

• Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, for what condition?

• Have you ever been treated for any mental condition?

• Is there any health-related reason you may not be able to perform the job for which you are applying?

• Have you had a major illness in the last five years?

• How many days were you absent from work because of illness last year?

• Are you taking any prescribed drugs?

• Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?

• Have you ever filed for workers’ compensation insurance?

• Will you need or request leave for medical treatment or for other reasons related to a disability?

Note: This information is intended for guidance only and should not be used as a substitute for specific legal advice. If legal advice is required, consult an attorney.