The hiring process is strewn with legal landmines that must be avoided by confining questions to subjects that actually should have a proper bearing on deciding whether to hire an individual. Those questions should focus exclusively on whether the candidate has a good work record and the relevant education and skills. Here, the Baltimore employment law attorneys at Bowie & Jensen explain what hiring managers are and are not legally allowed to ask during an interview.
What Can an Employer Ask During an Interview
An employer may ask whether the applicant:
- Can perform physical tasks, such as lifting heavy objects, that are an essential part of the job with or without a reasonable accommodation
- What accommodations would be required to perform those tasks
- Can work the hours required to perform to the job
- Has the requisite educational background
- Has or can obtain the licenses or permits needed to perform the job
- Can work lawfully in the U.S.
- Has been suspended or terminated by a prior employer and, if so, why
- Has ever been denied unemployment compensation
- Would prior employers provide good references
- Is eligible to be rehired by such employers
- Has any outside business or conflicts of interest that would interfere with the ability to perform the job
Employers can get a lot of relevant information by asking open-ended questions that require a candidate to start talking about themselves in an unstructured way. Those questions could include inquiries about an applicant’s outside interests, hobbies, etc. and their answers can provide important information relevant to the hiring decision.
What an Employer May Not Ask During an Interview
On the other hand, the following questions are STRICTLY off-limits:
- Are you disabled?
- Are you married?
- Are you pregnant or do you plan to have children?
- Have you ever filed a workers’ compensation claim?
- Have you ever complained about sexual harassment or employment discrimination?
- Would you expect to be excused from work on religious holidays, other than those when the office would already be closed?
- Have you ever been arrested for anything other than a traffic violation?
- Have you ever filed for bankruptcy?
Employers must also refrain from sharing with others involved in the hiring process or making a record of information about those topics that are volunteered by an applicant without being asked. By doing so, an employer can avoid allegations that such information unlawfully influenced the rejection of an applicant.
Illegal interview questions can lead to costly litigation and settlements that adversely impact the employer’s bottom line and business reputation. For more information about what employers may and may not ask during interviews, as well as specific protocols for Maryland employment law, contact the employment law attorneys at Bowie & Jensen LLC.