Keep Hiring Legal

Managers, regardless of whether you run small businesses or big corporations, should have basic knowledge of the "legalities of hiring."

These legalities do not apply to managers making a final hiring decision. It applies to all employers interviewing a candidate. You should know the legalities of hiring in the United States in general, and also those specific to your state. You should also try to keep abreast of employment law changes – which happen quite quickly. And, when in doubt, consult your employment lawyer.

US Employment Laws

"In the United States federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against job candidates on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, physical handicap, or age. In some states or localities additional characteristics, such as sexual orientation, may also be prohibited from entering into the hiring equation."

The law seems fairly clear-curt but court interpretations have more closely defined what comprises discriminatory hiring practices. Even some interview questions that affect a "protected class of applicants" negatively, may be, and often have been, considered illegal.

The general rule is for job interview questions (and interviewers) to focus specifically on the candidate’s ability to perform the tasks that are the job being applied for entails.

Below are some of the questions that are considered illegal (source: Other similar questions are also considered illegal. However, it is impossible to list down all questions that might be considered illegal due to broad court interpretations.

Are you married?

Many questions that relate to the sex of the applicant are illegal, including any question about marital status.

Do you have children?It is illegal to ask an applicant any questions about children, primarily because such questions can lead to discrimination against women.

How old are you?

It is illegal to ask an applicant his or her age. This law is designed to protect applicants over the age of forty. You may ask the applicant if he or she is over the age of eighteen-if the applicant is not, you may need to know the applicant’s age to ascertain the applicability of federal, state, and local child labor laws.

Did you graduate from high school or college?

An educational degree should not be a job requirement and should not be asked about in an interview unless the employer can demonstrate that successful performance on this job requires a specific level of education. Otherwise, this requirement and line of questioning can be construed as discriminatory because some minorities have less educational background than non-minorities.

Have you ever been arrested?

You should not ask an applicant if he or she has been arrested. You are generally well advised not even to ask about felony convictions, unless such a conviction would be unusually relevant to the position being sought. These questions can be discriminatory, because some minority groups have, on average, higher records of arrest and convictions than non-minorities.

How much do you weigh?

All questions about physical appearance are illegal because they tend to discriminate against women and some minorities.

What country are you from?

This question is clearly illegal because it discriminates on the basis of national origin.

Are you a U.S. citizen?

This question is illegal because it may be used to discriminate against people who have legally immigrated to the United States but have not become citizens.

What is your native language?

This question discriminates on the basis of national origin.

Are you handicapped?

You cannot ask about an individual’s possible handicaps. Furthermore, employers are generally required to make special accommodations for physically challenged applicants.


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