Lawful Inquiries for Interviews

Religion or Creed

When regular workdays, normal hours or scheduling requirements are addressed, it is acceptable to ask "Does the schedule present a problem?" If the answer is yes, it is acceptable to ask what the problems are for purposes of assessing any accommodations based on business needs.

It is unacceptable to make inquiries regarding an applicant's religious denomination, religious affiliation or observed religious holidays. It is unacceptable, for example, to say "This is a [Catholic, Protestant or Jewish] organization."

Citizenship

When hiring an employee, it is acceptable to ask, "Are you legally authorized to work in the U.S.?"

It is unlawful to ask whether an applicant is a naturalized or native-born citizen. It is unlawful to require an applicant to produce naturalization papers.

Education

It is acceptable to ask an applicant about his/her academic, vocational or professional education, as well as the public or private schools attended.

It is unlawful to ask about graduation dates alone, as this type of inquiry can suggest possible age discrimination. 

Race or Color

It is unlawful to inquire about an applicant's race, for example, "Are you Puerto Rican?" or "What is your AA/EEO status?"

Marital/Parental Status

It is unlawful to inquire about an applicant's marital or parental status except when the inquiry is required under federal regulations regarding independence, if applicable. For example, it is acceptable to ask, "Can you meet the specified work schedule, or do you have activities, commitments or responsibilities that may prevent you from meeting work attendance requirements?" It is also acceptable to ask, "Do you see any reasons why you could not travel for business?"

In addition to inquiries about an applicant's marital or parental status, it is unlawful to ask about:

  • The age(s) of the applicant's child(ren)
  • Whether the applicant plans to marry and/or have children
  • The name of the applicant's spouse
  • What the applicant will do if his/her children get sick

Military Status

It is acceptable to ask about an applicant's military experience in U.S. armed forces or a state militia. It is also acceptable to ask about job-related activities in a particular branch of military service. 

It is unlawful to ask about an applicant's general military experience and discharge, except in cases when the position is restricted by the U.S. Patriot Act.

Sex

It is unlawful to ask about an applicant's or employee's sex/gender, for example, "Do you wish to be addressed as Mrs., Miss or Ms.?"

Age

It is unlawful to ask about an applicant's age, for example, "How old are you?" or "What is your birth date?"

If the applicant could be a minor, it is acceptable to ask for proof of age in the form of a work permit or other certification of age.

Conviction

It is acceptable to ask an applicant if he/she was convicted of a crime if the inquiry is job-related, for example, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime related to [job duties]?"

It is unlawful to ask an applicant about arrest records prior to hiring him/her into a security-sensitive position.

National Origin

It is unlawful to ask an applicant about his/her national origin, ancestry, descent, parentage or nationality, unless the position is restricted by the U.S. Patriot Act. For example, it is unlawful to ask an applicant, "Is that a Spanish surname?"

Language Requirement

When job-related, it is acceptable to ask an applicant whether he/she speaks and writes a particular language fluently.

It is unlawful to ask an applicant how he/she learned to read, write or speak a foreign language. It is also unlawful to ask, "What is your native language?"

Disability

After a statement has been made regarding the essential job functions and the working conditions, it is acceptable to ask, "Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job?"

It is unlawful to ask an applicant if he/she has any disabilities or has been treated for any disease or illness.

Organizations

It is acceptable to ask an applicant about his/her membership in organizations that are considered relevant to the applicant's ability to perform the job.

It is unlawful to ask an applicant to provide a list of all social clubs, societies and organizations to which he/she belongs. 

References

It is acceptable to make inquiries regarding professional references.

It is unlawful to ask references about an applicant's race, sex, age, national origin, religion, marital or parental status, sexual orientation, or general medical conditions.