You and your employer can land in legal hot water if you ask certain questions during a job interview, such as about a candidate’s age, race or marital status. The Texas Department of Labor enforces federal laws that protect against discriminatory hiring and employment practices. However, there are ways of getting the information you want without breaking the law.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, makes sure that employers comply with federal anti-discrimination laws. Laws prohibit you from hiring or firing someone because of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. You also can’t use someone’s age as a basis for or condition for employment. Federal laws also protect disabled men and women from workplace discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1991 allows victims of workplace discrimination, even someone simply interviewing for a position, to seek monetary damages. The Texas Department of Labor will step in and investigate allegations of workplace discrimination.
Illegal Interview Questions
Federal laws prohibit you from asking a prospective employee questions about their religion, national origin, age or marital status. For example, you can’t ask a candidate if she is married. Even asking questions about what her husband or boyfriend does for a living is illegal. Similarly, you can’t ask a prospective employee about her religion, any children she has, any disability or chronic medical condition she has or if she is a veteran.
There are ways to get the information you want before making an employment decision without breaking federal and state laws. For example, you can’t ask if someone is a U.S. citizen but you can ask if she is authorized to work in the U.S. You can’t ask a candidate if she is married but you can ask if she has worked under a different name. She may have, if she changed her maiden name. Instead of asking about any children she has or plans to have, you can ask about her availability to work overtime or to come in with little or no notice. Think about the information you really want, such as availability, and frame your question in a way that doesn’t trample your prospective employee’s legal rights.
Federal and state laws prohibit you from basing an employment decision on stereotypes or assumptions you make about a candidate because of her sex, race, age, religion or ethnic group. You also cannot decide not to hire someone because she is married to or otherwise associated with someone of a particular sex, race, age, religion or ethnic group. Basing all hiring decisions on a candidate’s abilities and experience is an easy way to limit if not outright eliminate allegations of discriminatory hiring practices.
- Lawyers.com: Texas Labor Law and Employment Laws
- Texas Workforce Commission: Employee Rights and Laws
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions and Answers
- University of North Texas Career Center: Illegal Questions
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Retaliation
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.