Do's & Don'ts for Interviews
New York and federal law prohibits discrimination against job candidates based on their race, gender, disability, age, citizenship, national origin, religion, prior arrest and conviction history, domestic violence victim status, union activity, and several other protected statuses. Therefore, as explained more fully in the below guidance, we are not permitted to inquire, directly or indirectly, about these protected statuses when interviewing job candidates. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and check with Human Resource before asking a particular question.
- Do not ask an applicant to identify their race or any questions about the complexion or color of the applicant's skin, eyes, or hair, or about any other traits historically associated with race; it has no relevance to a person's qualification for employment.
- Do not note the applicant's race (or any other protected status) anywhere on the application or in interviewers' notes; it has no relevance to a person’s qualifications for employment.
- Do not ask questions related to sex, gender, sexual orientation, transgender status, gender identity, marital status, child-care obligations, or the possibility of pregnancy or birth-control practices.
- Do not ask questions that would lead to an applicant revealing sexual orientation, transgender status, gender identity, marital status, child-care obligations, and the possibility of pregnancy or birth-control practices. For example, avoid questions such as "How old are your children?" and "Will your husband watch your children if you have to work overtime?"
- You may, however, describe job requirements such as overtime or travel and ask if the applicant will be able to meet them. For example, you may state that frequent overtime is necessary on the job and ask the applicant if they will be able to work overtime when needed. So, "What days can you work?" "What hours can you work?" and "Do you have any responsibilities that would interfere with you traveling for us?" are all acceptable.
- Do not ask applicants to disclose their prior wage or salary history.
Physical or mental disability
- Do not ask questions relating to a physical or mental disability, or that are likely to elicit information about a disability. Employers are strictly prohibited from making any disability-related inquiries of job applicants. If a candidate requests a disability accommodation, make a notation of the request and, upon completion of the interview, contact Human Resources.
- Do not ask about medical conditions, past hospitalizations, past medical, psychiatric or psychological treatment.
- Do not ask about prescription medications or drugs or the number of days the applicant was sick during previous employment.
- You may, however, legitimately ask about an applicant's general history of absences.
- You may state the physical requirements for the job and ask whether the applicant can satisfy these requirements.
Prior Workplace Injuries
- Do not ask an applicant whether they previously were injured on the job.
- Do not ask an applicant whether they previously filed a Workers' Compensation claim.
- Do not ask an applicant his/her age or date of birth.
- Do not ask an applicant any questions that would reveal his/her age. For example, avoid questions such as "When did you graduate from high school?"
- You may, however, ask when the applicant graduated from college when there is a legitimate, job-related reason to obtain this information, since there are many individuals who go to college or go back to college many years after graduating high school.
- Do not suggest that an applicant is overqualified or that you are seeking someone with a more recent education.
- Do not ask an applicant questions about their citizenship, lineage, ancestry, national origin, descent, parentage or nationality.
- You may, however, ask the applicant "If you are hired, would you be able to provide proof of authorization to work in the United States?" This question is included in the online application process. Another acceptable example is "Are you legally eligible to work in the United States?"
- Do not ask whether English is an applicant's first language. If fluency in a particular language is a bona fide occupational qualification for the job, however, you may inquire about an applicant's ability to speak, read and write the language.
- Do not ask applicants about religion.
- You should, however, let an applicant know if work is required on Saturdays or Sundays and ask if they can work on those days. If a candidate requests a religious accommodation, make a notation of the request and, upon completion of the interview, contact Human Resources.
- Do not ask the prospective employee whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. If a candidate discloses a prior arrest or conviction, make a notation of the information and, upon completion of the interview, contact Human Resources. Under the New York State Human Rights Law, it is illegal to refuse to hire an applicant because of their prior criminal conviction record, unless there is a sufficient connection between the criminal history and the particular job requirements. This requires a very specific set of inquiries and legal analysis under New York law.
- The University requires a background check for most new hires (as of February 2014); please see information about this procedure on our website: http://www.stlawu.edu/human-resources/resource/pre-employment-background-check-procedures. Human Resources will facilitate a criminal background check if required for a particular job.
Domestic Violence Victim Status
- Do not ask an employee whether they have ever been the victim of domestic violence.
- Do not ask questions about the applicants' past or present labor union activities.
Other Areas of Inquiry to Avoid
- Do not ask a prospective employee the names, ages, and addresses of relatives.
- Do not ask an applicant to state their height or weight, unless you can show that information is justified by a legitimate business necessity and only after receiving prior approval from Human Resources.
- Do not ask an applicant about any questionable social media activity that may have come to your attention. If you have a concern about a candidate’s social media activity, contact Human Resources first.
- You may ask an applicant whether they were in the military and, if so, to describe the education and experience the applicant received. Do not, however, ask the applicant who was in the military to state what type of discharge received.