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Did He Really Just Ask That?

You are sitting in your interview for that dream job that you really, really want. Suddenly your jaw drops a little and you try to compose yourself, as you say to yourself silently, “Did he really just ask me that?” We all know there are questions that an interviewer in New York is not allowed to ask by law.

These questions are considered to be discriminatory and you can file a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). These types of questions are in respect to your nationality, your family life, your age, pregnancy or plans for pregnancy and much more.

What are these questions that are illegal for an interviewer to ask in New York?

  • Asking if you are a US citizen is illegal. Asking if you can work in the US legally is ok.
  • You cannot be asked what your native language is but you can be asked what languages you speak.
  • In regard to religion you cannot be asked what religion you practice or what religious holidays you observe. You can be asked if you are able to work the company’s regular schedule.
  • Most of us know that you cannot be asked what your age is. Be alert for questions that try to gather this information without directly asking for it. You cannot be asked how much longer you plan to work or when you plan to retire. You can be asked about your career goals and if you are over 18 put those are about the only questions relating to age that you can be asked.
  • Asking if you are married or have children is also illegal. You will be amused by all the questions that attempt to get around this question. Some of the illegal versions that you might get asked include “what is your maiden name?”; “Are you planning to have children or do you have children?”; this is really a question about availability so you should be asked it that way. “Are you available to work overtime?” You cannot be asked what your plans would be if you were to become pregnant. If you are asked if you have a babysitter or can get one on short notice, know the question is illegal.
  • You can’t be asked about your parents or what they do in their careers even if the interviewer is looking for your knowledge of the industry. You can offer that your parents have always worked in the industry, but the employer cannot ask.
  • You can’t be asked if you smoke, drink or take drugs. However you can be asked to take a drug test and you can be asked if you use illegal drugs. The employer might also inform you of a non-smoking or non-alcohol policy.

So what should you do if you find yourself in the position of our interviewee in the opening paragraph of this article? What if you find yourself saying to yourself silently, “Did he really just ask me that?” You do have a choice. You can answer the question or you can inform the interviewer that the question is illegal and you prefer not to answer it.

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