You’re ready to hire some more people for your growing firm. You’ve posted your ad and now you have some candidates that you feel are qualified enough to commit to sit down for an interview with them. Just remember, there are some subjects/questions that can get you into trouble, if you bring them up. The reason they are off-limits is because they might lead down the path to discrimination even if that wasn’t the intention.
The whole purpose of an interviews is to discover if a candidate will be a good fit for a job and the company. Just know where to draw the line. If you don’t, you can be accused of discrimination and unfair hiring practices and face lawsuits, even if you are a small employer.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) prohibits these questions:
1. Age — anyone over the age of 40 is protected by age discrimination law.
DON’T — ask their age, when they graduated high school or college, or when they first started working. You also can’t take notes about their estimated age.
DO — If you have a minimum age requirement and want to be sure your candidate is eligible, you can ask if they are 18 or older if they must be a legal adult to perform the job.
2. Gender/Sex/Sexual orientation or gender identity — Avoid all questions relating to gender and sexual orientation.
3. Race/ Ethnicity — Don’t ask about race.
4. Country of origin/ Birthplace/heritage — Florida attracts people worldwide.
DON’T — ask where a person is from, or where they were born, or about their accent. It may seem like an innocent question to break the ice, but it’s a no-no.
DO — you can ask if the person is legally eligible to work in the U.S. and if they can speak, read, and write English.
5. Marital status — Don’t ask about marital status. However, you can ask about dependents for insurance purposes after the person is hired.
6. Pregnancy — Even if a candidate is obviously pregnant, you aren’t legally able to ask any questions about this subject, such as asking when they are due, or if they have other children.
DO —You can describe the job and ask if they can perform all duties.
7. Family Status — You can ask all candidates about outside commitments, not just relationships, or it will be seen as discriminatory.
DON’T — ask if they are married, single, or if they have or plan to have children.
DO — ask if they have commitments that might prevent them from working the assigned shifts. However, you can ask about children after they’re hired for insurance purposes.
8. Religion — avoid questions about religion.
DON’T —ask if they can work weekends, which could be seen as an alternate question for religious observance.
DO — ask what days and shifts they can work, and if there are shifts they can’t work.
9. Disability – don’t ask if they have a physical or mental disability.
DON’T — ask if they have a disability, ever suffered a workplace injury, or filed a worker's compensation claim.
DO — describe the job then ask the candidate if they can perform all of the duties. If an applicant has an obvious disability (i.e., they’re in a wheelchair) or has mentioned a disability, you may ask about any reasonable accommodations they may need in order to do the job.
10. Military — direct questions about discharge or non- U.S. military services aren’t allowed.
DO — you can ask how their military experience and training would benefit in the job.
11. Financial Status — questions on this subject can be very sensitive.
DON’T — ask the candidate if they own their own home or car, or how long they have lived at an address.
DO — you can ask if they own a car if it’s a condition of the job. You can also ask where they live if you have a legitimate concern that the applicant will have a long commute.
12. Convictions — Although it isn’t illegal to ask about convictions in Florida, the EEOC advises evaluating criminal history as only one factor of an applicant’s fit. To avoid a hint of discrimination, let the applicants know that a background check will be run after they accept an offer of employment.
You want to learn as much about the candidates as possible. However, asking the wrong question or asking a question the wrong way could expose your company to discrimination charges or an investigation by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Keep it simple by asking each applicant the same questions. You might have different sets of skill or task-oriented questions for various positions but keep the basic information questions the same.