What Can An Employer Ask During A Job Interview?

California law prohibits employers from asking non-job related questions that may lead to discrimination as to race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, citizenship, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, gender, pregnancy, age, or sexual orientation.  Basically, employers should only ask questions about your ability to perform job-related functions or questions that have a business necessity.


Name Related Questions

  • What is your maiden name?

Employers should not ask questions to determine your family’s origin.

Residence Related Questions

  • Do you own or rent your property?

Employers can ask for a home address.

Age-Related Questions

  • How old are you?
  • Any question that tends to identify someone being over 40.
  • When are you planning to retire?
  • What year did you graduate from high school?

Employers can verify that applicants meet legal age requirement.

Citizenship Related Questions

  • Where were you born?
  • Are your parents and spouse U.S. citizens?

Employers can verify your legal right to work in the U.S.

National Origin Related Questions

  • Were you born in this country?
  • What language is spoken in your home?

If uses of non-English languages are relevant to the job, employer can ask about languages the applicant reads, speaks, or writes.

Race. Color. Sexual Orientation Related Questions

  • Do you straighten your hair?
  • You must tan easily?
  • Where are you from?
  • Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
  • Is that your natural hair color?

Basically any questions regarding an applicant’s race, color, complexion, eye color, hair color, or sexual orientation is inappropriate.

Religion-Related Questions

  • What is your religious affiliation?
  • What religious holidays do you observe?

Employer can disclose the regular days, hours, or shifts to be worked.

Marital Status. Family. Pregnancy-Related Questions

  • Are you married?
  • What kind of childcare arrangements have you made for this job?
  • What is your spouse’s, relative’s, or children’s names or addresses?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Do you plan on having children?
  • Do you have children?
  • How will your spouse feel about you traveling for this job?
  • Do you live with anyone?
  • What does your spouse do for a living?
  • What is your spouse’s name or address?

Employer can ask for name and address of parent or guardian if applicant is a minor.  Employer also can state company policy regarding work assignment of employees who are related.

Disability . Medical Condition Related Questions

  • Do you have any disabilities?
  • Have you ever had any serious medical conditions?

Questions about physical fitness are allowed if they are directly related to the job.

Criminal Record Related Questions

  • Have you ever been arrested?
  • Have you ever spent the night in jail?

Employer can ask job-related questions about convictions unless the convictions were sealed, expunged or statutorily eradicated.

Military Service Related Questions

  • What type of discharge did you receive from the military?
  • Did you serve in a foreign military?
  • Can I see your discharge papers?

Employers can ask about relevant skills acquired during U.S. military service.

This is only a brief discussion of illegal interview and application questions under California law.  If you feel your rights have been violated, you need to consult a lawyer. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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