The illegal questions job-seekers shouldn’t be asked

You’ve been looking for a job for months now and you’ve finally scored an interview with a pretty good company. Your interview is going well when the interviewer asks if you plan to have kids.

It’s illegal to ask that question but what happens if you refuse to answer it and note that the interviewer just broke the law? And so, you just go along and make up an answer if you have to.

This, perhaps, is a big reason why companies continue to ask questions they shouldn’t be asking, and they are asking the questions, an Associated Press survey of more than 1,000 people revealed this week.

Half of those surveyed say they were asked questions that were not supposed to be asked, in some cases sexually suggestive questions.

The results are part of a broader survey of job applicants about their experiences when interviewing.

CNBC, which partnered with the Associated Press on the poll, writes today that about 10 percent of job seekers surveyed were asked about their religious beliefs, 10 percent were asked if they’re pregnant, and a third were asked their age.

That’s about the same response as a survey 10 years earlier.

But there’s one question that is now being asked less frequently, CNBC says.

“Are you married?”

While the AP’s research was not broken down by gender, the EEOC explains that questions about marriage often hurt women’s chances of getting a job. “Questions about marital status and number and ages of children are frequently used to discriminate against women,” states their website. “Generally, employers should not use non job-related questions involving marital status.”

Thirty-five percent of respondents were asked about their marital status but the question seems to be much less common among younger job applicants. Roughly half of Americans over the age of 60 say they’ve faced this question compared to less than a third of those under 60.

Still, young job applicants don’t escape inappropriate questions entirely.

Just 3 percent of Americans over 45 say they were flirted with or asked sexually suggestive questions during an interview, while 10 percent of those under the age of 30 report having to endure that kind of behavior.

  • MrE85

    I was asked about my religious beliefs once. I believe I just stammered out some sort of answer, I was so surprised by the question.

    I didn’t get the job.

  • Al

    The cynic in me would love to see that breakdown by gender.

    • Barton

      the cynic in me would place a large bet on that breakdown.

  • Kassie

    Every young woman knows, you take off your wedding/engagement ring for job interviews. If you are young and married or engaged, every employer will assume you are going to start having babies and won’t hire you.

    And I find employers find other ways to get around the questions, even here at a union workplace. “How do you feel about working evenings? This isn’t a 40 hour a week job, are you ok with working much more than that?”

    • Guest

      Working evenings is a VERY LEGITIMATE question. How is that any kind of sketchy question to secretly find out about marriage?????

      • Barton

        because the assumption is – if one is a woman – if you cannot work evenings/weekends it is because you have a family to take care of. Which follows the other assumption – if one is a woman – that your job requirements/needs will always come a far second place to family commitments. Because of course (sarcasm fully intended) a woman would be the only caretaker in a family. And if you are a single female parent the odds of being hired are even lower as a result of assumptions about childcare needs.

        Working evenings in many office positions is NOT a legitimate question at all in fact.

        • Kassie

          Yep, everything Barton says. This was very much a 9-5, 40 hour a week job. And in a union workplace, while maybe they weren’t getting at do I have a family, they could of been getting at am I willing to ignore union rules and work a million hours unpaid. Either way the answer for me was no way.

      • Christie Burke

        If the job legitimately has evening hours, the posting should say so. If that comes up only at the interview stage, that’s a concern on a few different levels.

  • Bob Sinclair

    I believe an employer can’t ask about how the applicant can get to work. Or if they have a driver’s license (unless its part of the job requirement).

    • Christie Burke

      But they can ask *whether* an applicant has reliable transportation to and from work, without getting into the “how” part.

  • Barton

    I was asked once if I was sexually active, as the company did not cover birth control on its health insurance – they were quick to assure me that they would pay for the entire cost of my pregnancy but wouldn’t do anything to aid in the prevention of said event.

    • Brilliant…


    • Kassie

      Did you respond, “oh no worries, the chlamydia I got when I was in the porn industry has left me infertile.”