Many companies have used the same job application forms for years. This is a dangerous habit because the law concerning pre-employment inquiries has been evolving over time. For that reason application forms must be reviewed periodically to ensure that they comply with the current state of the law.

The danger to employers is that an obsolete application form will identify one or more legally protected characteristics of the applicant. If that person is not hired, they may then commence legal action claiming unlawful discrimination.

Here are a few of the common things that building service contractors should not ask during the job interview:

Race, religion and color: The very first legal prohibitions on pre-employment inquiries were those involving race, religion and color. Not only are prospective employers forbidden from asking these questions directly, they are also forbidden from asking them indirectly.

For example, it is unlawful to ask what church an applicant belongs to. Similarly, it is unlawful to inquire about membership in social organizations because it may reveal membership in an organization whose members are primarily of a certain race, religion or color. It is also unlawful to ask applicants for pictures of themselves.

Age: It is unlawful to ask for an applicant’s age or date of birth. This information can be requested after a conditional offer of employment has been made if there is a legitimate need for it. Such legitimate reasons might include, for example, determining that a suspected minor to eligible to hold employment. This information can also be requested as part of a post-offer health examination, where one is required.

National origin: It is lawful to ask if an applicant is legally eligible to hold employment in the United States. In jobs where a security clearance is needed because classified work is being performed on-site for the government, it is permissible to ask about citizenship status. In all other cases, asking about place of birth or nationality can lead to trouble.

Arrest and conviction records: While it is lawful to ask about any criminal charges that are still open, it is unlawful to inquire into past arrests that did not result in a conviction. Under new U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines, inquiries into prior convictions must satisfy specific legal criteria. The factors that must be considered are the nature of the offense, the applicant’s age when the offense was committed, how long ago it occurred, the relevance of the offense to the job in question, rehabilitation and the applicant’s subsequent work history.

next page of this article:
Off-limit Pre-Employment Inquiries