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Often, in an attempt to establish a rapport with a job candidate during an interview, hiring managers will engage in a little small talk at the start of the meeting. But, as a hiring manager, you need to be careful that you don’t inadvertently touch on topics that may open your company up to legal liability.

There are questions that you cannot ask legally because they are deemed discriminatory, and hiring managers need to be aware of these questions and topics. Here are a few.

1. Questions about marriage and children

The hiring manager may bring up this topic as a conversation starter, but this is treacherous territory legally, especially if the job candidate is a woman. Asking these kinds of questions may give the impression that you want to find out if the person is considering starting a family in the future or may have child care issues.

Asking these questions for the purpose of employment decisions is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and also of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and opens up the business to a lawsuit.

2. Questions about graduation dates

This type of question risks running afoul of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. This labor law is designed to protect job applicants who are over the age of 40 from discrimination based on age.

Obviously, asking about a graduation date makes it easy for an employer to figure out a person’s age and so opens up the employer to discrimination claims.

3. Questions related to retirement, grandchildren

Again, questions that are related to age can open up an employer to allegations of discrimination based on age.

4. Questions related to political or religious views

As an attempt to make small talk, your intention in asking these kinds of questions may be innocent enough, but you need to know that you are entering dangerous territory here legally. If you start talking about political beliefs, you are opening yourself up to charges of illegal discriminatory conduct.

These questions are not that uncommon because, especially at small businesses, people are interested in hiring others who are like them.

5. Questions about country of origin or citizenship

Title VII also makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against job candidates because of their country of origin. Job candidates legally do not have to reveal their immigration status or where they grew up.

Asking about a person’s citizenship during an interview is considered discriminatory because it can be used to eliminate from consideration people who are from countries other than the U.S.

This may put some employers in a quandary about hiring illegal immigrants. How then do you find out if someone is legally able to work in the United States? You can simply ask them, are you legally authorized to work here?

Winston Resources is here to provide your company with the talent you need to make your business the best it can be. We have the knowledge and experience to help your business. Give us a call today.


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