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July 13, 2024

What Are Prohibited Job Interview Questions?

Under federal and state anti-discrimination laws, employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability. Therefore, employers may not ask questions that are designed to elicit certain information from you. Be careful about the information that you provide on a job application and know your rights.

Some questions are permitted even though they may reveal information about your protected class. For example, interviewers can list the required job duties and ask whether you would be able to perform those functions even though your answer could reveal a disability. If your disability does not prevent you from performing the tasks associated with the job, the employer is prohibited from using information about the disability to deny you the job.

Prohibited topics are not always obvious and employers can try to find out prohibited information in indirect ways without blatantly asking whether you are a member of a protected class. For example, an interviewer may ask what year you graduated from high school as a way of determining how old you are. If an employer uses that information to deny you a job, then he or she is discriminating against you on the basis of your age.

Deciding what to do if an employer asks an illegal question during an interview or on an application can be tricky. If you refuse to answer the question, you may jeopardize your chances of getting the job. If you do answer the question, however, your employer could use that information to discriminate against you. You might want to wait and see whether you get the job before taking any actions.


The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay and child labor standards. Unlike anti-discrimination law, the FLSA does not exempt small businesses from its requirements. Though most employers are subject to the FLSA, not every employee is covered under the Act. There are some major exceptions--most notably, professional, administrative and executive employees.

The FLSA prohibits employers from paying employees an amount below the minimum wage--currently $5.15 an hour. It also requires employers to pay certain employees overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a given week and are considered to be an hourly employee, not salaried.

One thing the FLSA does not do is require employers to give employees time off. Many states, however, have laws requiring employers to give employees time off for jury duty or military leave. In addition, the Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to give up to 12 weeks unpaid leave to employees dealing with their own or a family member's health problems.

The FLSA also does not limit the amount of hours an employer can require you to work. Employers can require you to work overtime as long as they pay you for that time.

In addition to the FLSA's requirements, employers can't give different wages to different employees on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability. For example, an employer can't pay Asian employees more than white employees or vice versa.

Employers may also be required to withhold money from employees' paychecks. All employers have to withhold income tax and social security payments from paychecks. In addition, in some circumstances, employers may deduct from paychecks the cost of meals, housing and transportation; loans; debts and wage garnishments; and child support and alimony.

A Safe Place to Work

A safe and healthy workplace is important to both employers and employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Act sets the safety and health standards for the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is a division of the Department of Labor, administers the act.

The Act requires employers to follow certain health and safety standards. OSHA sets the workplace health and safety standards and conducts investigations to ensure employers are complying with the standards. In addition to specific requirements, employers must generally adopt methods, practices or procedures to protect workers on the job.

OSHA also requires employers to keep a record of all workplace injuries and report any serious injuries or deaths to OSHA. Employers are required to tell employees if their work involves hazardous materials.



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