What If I Am Asked An Inappropriate Question During A Job Interview?

As discussed in a previous post, 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. Employers should only ask questions about your ability to perform job-related functions or that have a business necessity.

If inappropriate questions are asked, you don’t have to answer them. The interviewer may not realize that he or she is asking an inappropriate question, or may be trying to tell you about the company’s benefits.  Rather than being defensive, you may want to respond with a generic statement.


  •  I’m not sure how that question relates to this job.
  • In response to inappropriate questions regarding military discharge: There is nothing in my records that would impair my ability to succeed in the job.
  • In response to inappropriate questions regarding past arrests: There is nothing in my past that affects my ability to perform this job’s duties.
  • In response to inappropriate questions regarding age: My age is not an issue for my performance in this job.
  • In response to inappropriate questions about pregnancy or family: I plan to pursue a career whether or not I decide to raise a family; or I am able to perform all the duties that the position entails.
  • In response to inappropriate question regarding disabilities: There is no task in your job description that I cannot perform; or I am fully capable of performing this job with no health reservations.
  • In response to inappropriate questions regarding citizenship: If you mean to ask if I am legally authorized to work for you, the answer is yes.
  • In response to inappropriate questions regarding religion: My faith will not interfere with my ability to do the job.
    • I was planning to go over the benefits with someone from human resources.
    • I don’t let my personal life affect my work.
    • I am confident that I will be able to handle the requirements of this position.
    • This question does not affect my ability to perform the job.

This is only a brief discussion on 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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