The Wagner Act of 1935, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and multiple Supreme Court decision since then have all contributed to the existence of job interview questions that are illegal to ask. It is worth keeping in mind, however, that it is also illegal to speed in excess in 35 mph on certain roads. The point being that just as you are very likely to see cars breaking speed laws on your way to the job interview, you may very well come face to face with an interviewer who breaks the laws against asking certain questions.
Whether you are asked job interview questions that are illegal due to ignorance or a concerted effort by a company to skirt restrictions they may see as unfairly imposed upon them is beside the point. What you need to worry about are the options you have at your disposal when you are asked a question you know is off-limits.
Refusing to Answer Illegal Job Interview Questions
“How old are you?” This is a common example of illegal interview questions that may get accidentally get asked during a relaxed, conversational exchange. Or it could be a targeted attempt at using subterfuge to pry information from you in an underhanded way. You always have the option to flat out avoid answering any question you know it is against the law for you to be asked. The problem, of course, is that you while you may well be on the right side of the law, you cannot be certain whether you will wind up on the wrong side of the unemployment line. Refusing to answer illegal job interview questions gives you the high moral ground. Answering them makes you complicit in the lawbreaking. It is up to you to determine which stance your prospective employer finds more appealing.
Answering Illegal Job Interview Questions
“Do you have any outstanding debt?” The only way this question makes the leap into the arena of legal job interview questions is if you have previously given permission for the interviewer to ask about your financial situation. Be aware that deciding to answer illegal job interview questions can be a slippery slope. You can make it clear that you understand the questions are against the law, but since you have nothing to hide you are willing to answer anything. That decision only pays off if you really and truly have absolutely nothing you would rather not discuss. Showing your willingness to answer the question about debt may potentially lead to the interviewer feeling free to ask other illegal job interview questions that touch upon things like your religion, sexual preference, arrest (not conviction) record and the condition of your health. Choosing to answer illegal job interview questions without letting the interviewer know that the are against the law has the potent ial to lead the interview down some roads you would probably rather not travel. At the same, however, the level of honesty to which you are willing to commit may ultimately play a deciding role in your actually getting the job.
Putting an End to the Job Interview
“You mentioned your husband is a teacher….is he a member of the teachers’ union?” The one option you definitely want to consider the longest before committing to begins with refusing to answer illegal job interview questions, but end with your removing yourself from the interview. You may well be willing to swallow your pride and put up with questions you know are against the law as long as they are not terribly intrusive or place you in a difficult situation. Perhaps you don’t mind admitting your age or letting a potential employer know that you are certain medications. For you, the line that cannot be crossed may be inquiries into the six months you saw a psychiatrist or questions about your family.
If you should reach the point when illegal job interview questions make you decide to immediately end the process and leave, it is worth taking the time to decide on how you want to do this. If the point of no return was reach rather quickly as a result of rudeness or crass behavior, it may well make you feel better about yourself to exit with no question lingering over your desire not only to never work for such a company, but to report them for asking questions against the law. On the other hand, if the illegal questions evolved naturally and you still feel as though you would not turn down an offer, politely excuse yourself by being forthright about the reason for terminating the interview while also making it clear you are not above accepting a position along with an apology.
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