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Inappropiate/Illegal Questions

Employer Resource Guide

Inappropriate/Illegal Questions

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against any individual on the basis of that individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Civil Rights Act also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency given responsibility for enforcement of the Act.

  • It is okay to ask if one is a United States Citizen but not okay to ask if one’s citizenship is of a national origin.
  • It is discriminatory to ask how one learned to read, write, or speak a language, but it is acceptable to ask the language one speaks fluently, and if one speaks a foreign language.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits discrimination "because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions shall be treated the same for all employment related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs, as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work, and nothing...shall be interpreted to permit otherwise."

  • Avoid asking questions regarding relationships, marriage, children, pregnancy, childcare, marital status or childcare accommodations.
    Generally an interviewer should not ask one’s age during an interview.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of age against anyone over the age of 40. Some states and local governments also have laws that enforce age discrimination.

  • With rare exceptions, the only age appropriate question to ask is if a candidate is over the age of 18. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1992 protects qualified individuals with a disability against discrimination in hiring, advancement, discharge, compensation, training or other terms and conditions of employment. It requires that reasonable accommodations be made to the known physical or mental limitations of qualified individuals with a disability, unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. As a general rule you should not ask about one’s use of lawful medication and/or prescription drugs.

Sample questions that may be asked:

  • How do you intend to get to work?
  • Do you have the legal right to remain permanently in the U.S.?
  • Are you willing to relocate?
  • Do you have any family, business or social obligations that would prevent you from working consistently or over time or prevent you from traveling?
  • Can you or are you willing to lift "X" number of pounds?
  • Are there any other names under which your employment may be verified?
  • What foreign language so you speak, read or write?

Sample questions that may not be asked:

  • What is the nationality of your parents or spouse?
  • How did you learn to speak a foreign language?
  • What color is your complexion or skin?
  • What religious holidays do you observe?
  • What parish do you belong to?
  • Did you ever have any other name than the one you are using now?
  • Of what clubs have you been a member?
  • Do you plan to marry?
  • Do you plan to have children?
  • Who will take care of your children?


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