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Questions In an Interview You Don’t Have to Answer

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It is illegal for an employer to ask certain questions during an interview. Any question whose answer can be used to discriminate against a candidate, such as a question about when he or she plans to start a family, where he or she was born, or which holidays he or she celebrates, is an illegal interview question. In April 2017, the New York City Council voted to make another type of interview question illegal for employers to ask: questions about their past compensation amounts. Once it goes into effect in the fall, asking this question or any other question that can be used to make a hiring decision based on anything other than fitness for the position is a violation of employment law.

What is the Ban Trying to Accomplish?

The goal of this ban is to break the cycle of underpaying women and people of color compared to white males. When an interviewee provides his or her current or former salary, the prospective employer will typically use this – consciously or subconsciously – to determine that interviewee’s salary offer if he or she is offered the job. This is known as “anchoring,” and it can cause the interviewer to make a salary offer based on a percentage raise or a simple dollar amount raise from the interviewee’s previous salary. When it happens to an employee who has been underpaid for most or all of his or her career, this can mean continuing to receive less than his or her colleagues in similar positions.

Other Illegal Interview Questions

If you are asked a question in an interview and you are not sure how it relates to the position, ask the interviewer how your answer is relevant to the job in a positive, non-confrontational manner. Illegal interview questions are rarely direct.

Examples of illegal interview questions include:

  • When did you graduate from high school/college? This question can be used to determine your age;
  • What are your family’s Christmas traditions? Though this can sound like small talk, it can also be used to discern your religious affiliation;
  • Are you married?;
  • How old are your kids? This question is two-fold. It is asking if you have children and if the answer is yes, determining whether you might need to take time off to care for them or if you could potentially have another;
  • What nationality is your last name?;
  • Where were you born? And
  • Have you experienced any illnesses in the past few years?

Work with Our Team of Experienced New York Employment Lawyers

Illegal workplace practices can occur at any stage of employment, from candidate screening and interviews to issues related to collecting severance after leaving the company. If you are facing any form of discrimination, work with an experienced workplace harassment attorney to determine your right to legal recourse. Contact our team at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. today by calling (347)-464-8694 to set up your initial consultation in our office.

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