May 25, 2018

Employee Discrimination and Interviews:
What to Ask and Answer

by Dianne Einstein, Einstein Law, LLC

The state and federal laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, gender, national origin and religion do not include a list of questions prospective employers cannot ask.

So, it is not explicitly illegal to ask questions about your gender, race, national origin or religion. While these questions are not illegal, the questions may imply an illegal motive of the employer. If an employer asks these types of questions and the candidate does not get the job, it can be used as evidence of discrimination. So, employers should not ask questions that could reveal personal details about a candidate. Employers, however, often do ask these questions.

So what rights do candidates have during the application and interview process if they are asked questions about their race, gender, national origin or religion? Since the law does not prohibit asking the questions, the employer has not done anything illegal by asking the questions. Should a candidate answer these types of questions? Yes. If you refuse to answer the question, the likelihood of getting the job decreases substantially. If so, how should you answer those? Tackle the question head-on, do not show your disapproval of the question and redirect the conversation back to your qualifications. If a female candidate is asked if she has children, answer honestly but state your children do not limit your availability or dedication to the job. You should also provide examples of how you handled work and family life in previous positions.