You want to learn as much as you can about a potential employee before you hire them, but there are certain topics that are off-limits under state and federal anti-discrimination and equal employment opportunity laws. As a business owner or manager, it is essential that you understand what you cannot and should not ask a job candidate.
Avoid These Topics in Applications and Interviews
Basically, you should not ask questions about any of the characteristics that are protected under anti-discrimination law. These categories include:
- National origin
- Sexual orientation
- Gender identity
- Pregnancy status
Clearly, this means that you should not ask direct questions about a person’s identity, diagnoses, age, or medical condition, but it also means avoiding related questions such as the following:
- Where do you go to church?
- What language do you speak at home?
- Do you plan to have children in the next year?
- What year did you graduate from high school?
- Why are you in a wheelchair?
- Do any mental health conditions run in your family?
- Are you taking any medications?
- What is your spouse/partner’s name?
- Where were you born?
These kinds of questions cannot be included on applications or in formal interviews or reference checks, but you should also avoid broaching these topics in more casual conversations. Any line of questioning that gets the applicant to reveal protected information is problematic, especially if you decide not to hire the person in the end.
Also, in New Jersey, it is illegal to ask an applicant for their wage, salary, or benefits history. This law went into effect on January 1, 2020, so many employers may not be aware of it.
What Can You Ask?
Obviously, there is a lot you can ask to determine if the applicant is right for the job. You can ask questions about education, experience, former employers, goals, challenges, philosophies, and much more.
If an applicant has an obvious disability or they disclosed their disability to you, you can ask them if they need changes to the application process or to the work environment or job tasks in order to complete them. However, you do not HAVE to ask these questions. It is largely up to the applicant to request reasonable accommodations.
We Can Help You Avoid Problems and Defend Yourself If You Are Already in Trouble
We help businesses establish policies that protect them from EEOC or discrimination lawsuits, including drafting application and interview questions that don’t cross the line. We also defend employers accused of discrimination. If you have questions about how to handle the recruiting and hiring process in New Jersey, contact us today.