How an employer handles personnel decisions (e.g., hiring, discharging, promoting and/or demoting) is
extremely important and can either help or seriously hinder its defenses to potential disputes and claims of
Pre-employment interviews are an integral part of the hiring process for any employer and when properly
administered, serve as an excellent tool for screening applicants and ultimately hiring successful and
productive employees. However, interviews can also, potentially, be abused to improperly and unlawfully
restrict or deny employment opportunities to individuals classified by certain “protected classes.” Both
federal and state law prohibit the use of pre-employment inquires that are not job-related or predictive of
successful job performance and disproportionately screen out minority groups or members of one sex.
Accordingly, it is imperative for employers to know which types of inquires are appropriate and which
types of inquires are not only improper, but illegal. By initiating conversation about a certain topic or
asking a question pertaining to a “protected class” could be considered discriminatory and open the door
for potential litigation.
The following list contains some inappropriate and illegal inquires, provided for information purposes
only, which pursuant to federal and/or state law cannot be considered when making personnel decisions:
1. Race or Color: An employer may NOT ask about an applicant’s complexion or color of skin.
2. Religion: An employer may NOT ask about an applicant’s religious affiliation, church,
synagogue, parish, pastor, rabbi, or religious holidays observed.
3. National Origin: An employer may NOT ask about an applicant’s lineage, ancestry, national
origin, descent, parentage, nationality, birthplace, or native language.
4. Marital Status: An employer may NOT ask questions about marital status, maiden name, pregnancy, future child-rearing plans, and number and/or age of children.
5. Age: An employer may NOT ask an applicant’s age or date of birth.
6. Citizenship: An employer may NOT ask an applicant to identify his or her country of
citizenship or whether the applicant is a naturalized or native-born citizen of the United States.
7. Disability: An employer may NOT ask questions that are disability-related (i.e., inquires
that are likely to elicit information about a disability).
For more information, please contact Gary Anderson or Jonathan Nash with the Employment Law division of Hillyard Anderson & Olsen, P.C.