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Illegal Questions You May Get Asked at Job Interviews

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Reprinted from a blog by Paula Reuben Vieillet, President of Employment Options Inc.

 

Even though the civil rights protection covered by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other employment-related laws have been around for decades, many job hunters with disabilities still do not understand how this law impacts them in their job search.

Did you know that it is illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age or disability when hiring?  Here are some examples of illegal questions you may be asked during an interview that could be used to discriminate against hiring you.

  • What is your race?
  • What is your age?
  • Are you married?
  • What is your religious background?
  • Do you have any children?
  • Do you have a back injury?
  • Have you ever been on Workers’ Compensation?
  • Are you disabled/do you have a disability?
  • Do you take any medications?
  • How many sick days did you take last year?
  • How long have you had your disability?

 

Employers may not ask you questions about your disability, only your abilities!  BUT, not all employers know the law or follow the law.  So, if a potential employer “accidentally” asks an illegal question in a job interview, one of the best ways to protect yourself against discrimination is to always to address the concern, not the question!

For example, what if a potential employer asks you how old you are in a job interview? Prevailing negative stereotypes about older workers may include: they are too old to learn new information, are slower to learn new things, do not have many work years remaining or that they are frequently ill.

In your response, stand up for your rights and address the concerns, not the question! Try saying things like, “I am hoping to work for my next company for at least ten years,” “I am sure my excellent work experience and years of dependability will be an asset to your company” or “I am open to learning new information.”

Disability-related questions in an interview may reflect concerns or negative stereotypes regarding hiring people with disabilities, such as their being too difficult or costly to accommodate, driving up health insurance costs, re-injuring themselves on the job, being frequently absent due to their disability or being a danger to themselves or others.

Again, try addressing an interviewer’s concerns, not his or her questions. Your responses may sound something like this: “I understand that you might have concerns, but I had a great attendance record at my past job,” “I might need a little help with __. Would that be a problem?” or “I am able to perform all of the essential duties of this job.” Another approach to try is, “I have had this disability my whole life and I have held many jobs. I am excellent at finding ways to work around my disability, and this makes me a more creative thinker and problem solver.”

Throughout history, different populations have had to fight for their right to live equally and to have equal opportunities. Slowly, through individual and group efforts, people are becoming free to live without fear, practice their religions, vote, travel and work without imposed barriers due to race, sex, nationality, sexual orientation, age or physical and mental abilities. 

Next time you are asked an illegal question, be prepared and address the concerns! It is important that you stand up for your rights as a person with many different abilities and assets. Discrimination laws can take many years and much individual effort before they are truly accepted. If getting a job is on your list of resolutions, do not let discrimination get in the way!

For More Information:

  • Read the “Guide for People with Disabilities Seeking Employment”.
  • If you feel you have been discriminated against and would like to file an employment discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, visit http://www.eeoc.gov/employees/howtofile.cfm.
  • For answers to questions about employment-related protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, call the Department of Justice ADA Information Line at 1-800-514-0301 (800-514-0383 TTY). ADA specialists are available Monday- Friday from 9:30 AM-5:30 PM Eastern, except on Thursday when the hours are 12:30 – 5:30 PM.

For More Information about My Employment Options:

Paula Reuben Vieillet is President and Founder of Employment Options Inc., a certified Social Security Administration Employment Network in the Ticket to Work Program. She is a frequent consultant to the Social Security Administration on the Ticket to Work program and is on the Board of Directors of the National Employment Network Association. Her company assists Ticket to Work participants in 48 states and has a loyal following of employers who consistently hold job openings for her clients because they have been so well-screened for each job description.

*This article contains excerpts from Employment Options: The Ultimate Resource for Job Seekers with Disabilities and Other Challenges, a culmination of Mrs. Vieillet’s 20 years of experience as a Licensed Rehabilitation Counselor.

 

Last Review and Update: May 01, 2013
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