Workplace discrimination can begin long before someone gets into the workplace. It too often keeps people out. That’s why there are laws regarding what kind of information employers can request during the pre-employment process.
Generally, employers can only ask for information that is relevant to a person’s job qualifications. This typically prohibits them from seeking information about a person’s race, gender, religion and other protected characteristics.
Most employers know better than to ask specifically about these characteristics. However, some try to find their way around that by asking about membership in organizations, clubs and other groups. Applicants shouldn’t be required to provide this information. Likewise, they shouldn’t have to provide a photo until and unless they accept the job.
Employers don’t have a right to ask applicants about their marital or parental status either. During an interview, these questions may be posed seemingly innocuously and perhaps conversationally. However, you aren’t required to discuss your marital status (including the gender or employment status of your spouse), how many children you have, whether you are expecting a child or your child care arrangements.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website provides more detailed information on prohibited employment policies and practices, including recruitment, job ads, background checks and more.
It can be more difficult to prove discrimination in hiring than in actions taken in the workplace, as there can be any number of reasons why someone isn’t hired. However, if an employer is posing questions like those discussed here that are irrelevant to the job and are meant only to get personal information about applicants, they may be able to be held liable. An experienced employment attorney can provide valuable guidance if you believe you’ve been the victim of hiring discrimination.