Wyoming Business Tips – Illegal Interview Questions

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC) at the University of Wyoming.

By Piper LeMoine, WSBDC Office Associate

Is it illegal to ask certain questions during a job interview? Roger, Saratoga.

The questions that are permissible to ask during a job interview with a prospective employee have changed in the past 40 years, as a result of ground-breaking civil rights legislation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the government agency that seeks to end discrimination in the workplace, was a product of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Generally speaking, the major categories of questions that employers are not allowed to ask are race, color, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.

According to the Small Business Administration, some other types of questions are “off-limits” for discussion during a job interview. The employer should not inquire about a person’s arrest record; however, it is permissible to ask if the candidate has ever been convicted of a crime, since there is a difference between arrests and convictions. A candidate’s citizenship prior to being hired is not to be discussed, although an employer may ask if the candidate, if hired, will be able to provide proof of eligibility to work in the United States.

Other topics that are not permissible for job interviews include the candidate’s health or medical history, credit history or financial situation (unless this can be considered job-related, and even then it is best to be extremely cautious), whether they own or rent their home and who lives with them, education or training that is not required to perform the job, and membership in non-professional organizations or clubs that are not related to the job.

The SBA offers a very easy-to-remember rule for employers, “When in doubt, ask yourself if the question is job-related; if not, don’t ask!”

More information is available at the EEOC Web site at http://www.eeoc.gov, or at the SBA Web site, http://www.sba.gov/managing/growth/interview.html.

The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question call 1-800-348-5194, (307) 766-3505, e-mail

wsbdc@uwyo.edu, or write P.O. Box 3922, Laramie, WY 82071-3922. Additional help is available at the WSBDC Web page, www.uwyo.edu/sbdc

Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003

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