EEO Guidelines for Interviewing Job Applicants

These guidelines focus on job interview inquiries prohibited by law and set forth permissible and impermissible inquiries during the job interview and before the offer to hire is made. It is important that the interviewer ask only questions that are job related.

Index

Age Height and Weight
Alcohol or Drug Use Marital Status
Arrest Record Military Service
Availability for Saturday or Sunday Work Name
Availability for Weekend or Evening Work National Origin
Citizenship Organization Membership
Convictions Personal Information
Credit Inquiries Pregnancy
Disability Race or Color
Education Religion or Creed
Family Status Residence
Financial Status Union Affiliation
Gender

Age

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: None. (The exception, as always, is when you can prove that age is a bona fide occupational qualification - i.e., is necessary to perform the job, such as a police officer; usually difficult or impossible to prove.) NOTE: A pre-employment application may request the applicant’s age or date of birth. The Labor Department recommends also including a disclaimer to the effect that age will not be used in any employment decision in accordance with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Any question designed to discover someone’s age.

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Alcohol or Drug Use

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Specific job-related inquiries such as whether the applicant has been convicted for drunk driving, drinks alcohol, or uses illegal drugs. Current use of illegal drugs and behavior related to the abuse of alcohol (such as intoxication resulting in inability to perform) are not protected under the ADA. (See Disability)

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Alcoholism is a covered disability under the ADA. Any inquiry about how much the applicant drinks or whether the applicant has participated in an alcohol rehabilitation program. (See Disability)

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Arrest Record

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: None. (Law enforcement agencies are exempt from this restriction, but should call their local EEOC office to see what the exceptions are.)

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Any inquiry relating to arrests. Since, under our judicial system, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty - i.e., convicted - records of arrests without conviction are not useful and may be prejudicial.

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Availability for Saturday or Sunday Work (pertaining to religious discrimination)

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: A question about whether applicant can meet work schedule with reasonable accommodation if necessary. However, the answer to such a question may reveal that an applicant’s religious observance makes him or her unavailable for weekend shifts, and this fact cannot be used in any hiring decision. Title VII requires employers to make "reasonable accommodation" even for a "prospective employee’s religious observance," unless it causes "undue hardship." If you decide to ask, let the applicant know that a reasonable effort will be made to accommodate any religious needs should he or she be hired. (See Religion or Creed)

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Any question about religious preference, affiliation, observance, or practices. (See Religion or Creed)

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Availability for Weekend or Evening Work (pertaining to sex discrimination)

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about an applicant’s availability for evening and/or weekend work, provided that you ask both male and female applicants, and provided that the position in fact requires or will require work on evenings and/or weekends. (See Sex)

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Asking this question because you might want the person to work evenings or weekends, but it is not a requirement for the position. This question is likely to have a discriminatory impact on applicants with families - particularly women. (See Sex)

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Citizenship

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about whether the applicant is legally eligible to work in the U.S., whether the applicant is prevented from lawfully becoming employed in the U.S. due to his/her visa or immigration status, or whether the applicant can provide proof of citizenship, visa, alien registration number after being hired. However, the law does not protect unauthorized aliens. It protects citizens and intending citizens, which includes aliens who are lawful permanent residents, as well as temporary residents under the amnesty program who complete a declaration of intention to become a citizen. It is not an unfair employment practice for an employer to prefer to hire a citizen or national of the U.S. over another individual who is an alien if the two individuals are equally qualified for the job. See 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1324B.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Whether applicant is a U.S. citizen. Any requirement that the applicant present birth, naturalization, or baptismal certificate before being hired.

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Convictions

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about convictions that reasonably relate to performing the job in question. Consider both nature and number of convictions, facts surrounding each offense, the job-relatedness of each conviction and the length of time since conviction, plus applicant's employment history since conviction. For instance, it is permissible to inquire about an applicant’s conviction record for "security sensitive" jobs, since it has been shown that people with high conviction rates are poor risks for these jobs. "Security sensitive" jobs include not only the obvious - treasurer, cashier, etc. - but peripheral positions as well - janitor, typist, trucker, or other jobs in which the employee would be working near a security sensitive area.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries relating to convictions that are irrelevant to the job - e.g., inquiries about gambling arrests for the job of pipefitter. A non-hire on the basis of a prior conviction must be justified by business necessity and must be balanced against the possibility of negligent hire liability.

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Credit Inquiries

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about credit history that relate to the job in question.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries relating to charge accounts, bank accounts, credit history, or credit rating that do not relate to the job in question. Good credit requirements have been challenged as discriminatory because they may have an adverse impact on minorities.

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Disability

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about whether the applicant has the ability to perform specific job functions. Asking the applicant to describe or demonstrate how he or she would perform job tasks. Inquiries about whether the applicant will require a reasonable accommodation ONLY when the applicant has an obvious disability, or when the applicant voluntarily discloses that he or she has a disability.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries that are likely to elicit information about a disability. General inquiries - e.g., "Do you have any disabilities?" - which might reveal disabilities not related to ability to perform specific job. Inquiries about whether the applicant can perform major life activities.

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Education

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries regarding degrees, courses, equivalent experience, or training required for the specific job.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: General questions about high school or college degrees unless the educational degree inquired about is the only way to measure a candidate's ability to perform the job in question.

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Family Status

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Whether applicant has any activities, commitments, or responsibilities that might prevent him or her from meeting work schedules or attendance requirements. NOTE: These questions must be asked of both men and women, or of neither.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Do not inquire about whether the applicant is married or single, number and age of children, spouse’s job, spouse’s or applicant’s family responsibilities, child care responsibilities, support orders, pregnancy, etc. Do not direct questions to applicants of a particular sex - e.g., asking women about child care arrangements, or asking men about child support obligations.

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Financial Status

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: None.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about an applicant’s financial condition. This has been found to result in discrimination against minorities since more non-whites than whites are below the poverty level. Questions about home ownership or car ownership (unless owning a car is required for the job).

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Gender

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: None, unless sex is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Reference to the applicant's sex, if a particular sex is not a BFOQ.

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Height and Weight

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about height or weight requirements necessary for the job or about whether applicant has the ability to perform specific job functions. Must be able to prove that a specific minimum or maximum height or weight is required to perform the job.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Any inquiry about height or weight not based on the actual job requirements.

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Marital Status

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: None.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Whether the applicant is married, single, divorced, separated, engaged, widowed.

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Military Service

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about education, training, or work experience gained in U.S. armed forces as it relates to the particular job.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Type or condition of military discharge. Experience in other than U.S. armed forces. Request for discharge papers. Under federal law, federal contractors may only invite disabled or Vietnam era veterans to self-identify if it is in connection with an affirmative action effort. Preferring applicants with honorable discharge rather than dishonorable discharge may be race discrimination under the adverse impact theory. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects against discrimination on the basis of military service. However, a less than honorable discharge can be the basis for denial of reemployment under USERRA. Cannot ask about military convictions, unless job related.

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Name

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Whether candidate has ever worked under a different name.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries to determine national origin, ancestry, or prior marital status.

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National Origin

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries into applicant’s ability to read, write, and speak English or foreign languages when required for a specific job. Individuals must be able to communicate well enough to perform the job. Inquiries about whether candidate is legally eligible to work in the U.S.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about applicant’s lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent, place of birth, mother tongue, or national origin of applicant’s parents or spouse. Refusal to hire because of a foreign accent or lack of facility with English could be construed as national origin discrimination.

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Organization Membership

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about membership in professional organizations related to the job - e.g., does the applicant for a chemical engineering job belong to a chemical engineering society.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Questions about organizations whose name or character indicates members’ economic or social class, race, color, creed, sex, marital status, religion or national origin - e.g., country clubs, social clubs, religious clubs, fraternal orders.

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Personal Information

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Whether the applicant has ever worked for your organization. Whether the applicant has ever worked for your organization under another name. Names of character references.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: General inquiries about change of name through application in court or marriage.

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Pregnancy

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about the applicant’s anticipated duration of stay on the job or anticipated absences.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Any question relating to pregnancy or medical history concerning pregnancy, or inquiries that might elicit answers based on pregnancy or family planning status. NOTE: The EEOC has ruled that to refuse to hire a female solely because she is pregnant constitutes sex discrimination.

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Race or Color

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: None.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Any questions about race, color, or complexion of skin.

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Religion or Creed

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: None.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Questions about applicant’s religious denomination, religious affiliation, church, parish, pastor, or religious holidays observed.

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Residence

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Inquiries about the applicant’s address needed for future contact with the applicant.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: Whether the applicant owns or rents own home (denotes economic class). Names and relationship of persons with whom the applicant resides.

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Union Affiliation

ACCEPTABLE PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: None.

PROHIBITED PRE-EMPLOYMENT INQUIRIES: The Labor Management Relations Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of union membership.

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SOURCE: Libraries' Human Resources Department, updated July 2012.