Workplace discrimination can take many forms. In fact, employers do not have to hire you and then mistreat you for you to experience discrimination. It can happen during the job interview itself when an employer presents you with a question that seems inappropriate or even discomforting.
You might receive these questions as part of a job application or verbally from an interviewer. According to the EEOC, an employer should not ask certain questions about your identity or behavior or run the risk of appearing to discriminate.
Examples of discriminatory questions
Generally, suspicious questions from an employer will involve asking you about personal attributes and characteristics protected by civil rights laws. For instance, federal law protects people of different races and ethnicities from discrimination. Therefore, an employer should not ask if you are biracial, have a mixed heritage or if you speak a language other than English at home.
Other problematic questions involve asking about your religion, sex, age or national origin. Certain lifestyle decisions may be off limits as well. If you can become pregnant, a workplace should not ask if you are pregnant or if you plan to become pregnant within the coming year.
Questions that may not be discriminatory
Not all inquiries about personal characteristics necessarily aim to discriminate. Some jobs may require someone to be of a certain age to qualify. There are also jobs that necessitate an applicant to speak English clearly and fluently. And while an employer should not ask if someone has a disability, an employer can inquire about whether the applicant needs reasonable accommodations to carry out work duties.
An employer should take care when interacting with you. Asking you the wrong questions may make you feel unwelcome and you may decide to go somewhere else, which could deny you a lucrative career. And if the employer does hire you and mistreat you, the employer questions could serve as additional evidence of discriminatory intent towards a specific group of people.