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5 Illegal Questions in Job Interviews

Small businesses looking to hire new employees need to know what questions are illegal to ask in a job interview.

Once business owners have determined what type of employees the business needs and how much they can afford to pay them, it's time to figure out what questions to ask in the interview.

To get you started, here are five illegal questions you shouldn't ask in a job interview.

  1. What's your marital status? One of the first things that an employment law attorney in Houston will tell you is that questions relating to a potential candidate's marital status or sexual orientation are legally off-limits. This includes asking if a female candidate prefers to be called "Ms." or "Mrs."
  2. Do you have a history of drug use? The Americans With Disabilities Act prevents employers from asking about a candidate's past drug use. However, employers are free to ask about current illegal drug use.
  3. What year did you graduate? Although it's perfectly fine to ask about a potential employee's education, it's best to avoid questions that could reveal a person's age. Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), employers are prevented from discriminating against job applicants based on their age if the applicant is 40 years old or older.
  4. Do you need any religious holidays off? While you may be doing so out of good will, it's illegal to ask a candidate about his or her religion. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits private employers from discriminating against employees based on various factors -- including religion. Business owners can find themselves in legal trouble if the applicant's religion is revealed during the interview and time off needs for religious reasons were a factor in denying him or her the job. However, it's typically fine to ask a candidate about the number of days they might need off each year -- so long as it doesn't pertain to religion.
  5. What country were you born in? Like religion, it's illegal to ask about an applicant's national origin. So questions like, "Where were you born?" or "Is English your first language?" should be avoided.

If it's your first time hiring employees, you might want to have a local attorney run through your potential interview questions to make sure you're not breaking any laws.

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