Know the Laws: What Employers Can’t Ask in an Interview

Interviews are scary enough without worrying about whether or not the questions the interviewer is asking are legal. This can especially be a concern if you are worried about discrimination based on your age, gender or ethnicity. This is a brief overview of some of the questions employers cannot ask in an interview and where to take your concerns if you think the potential employer asked you a discriminating question.


Illegal Questions

Potential employers cannot ask you questions based on the following categories: age, race, gender, country of origin, religion, disability and marital status. These are considered subjects that an employer could use to discriminate against a candidate that does not contribute to job performance. These are a few example questions they cannot ask for each category. Please note this is not an exhaustive list, but is meant to give you a quick idea of what questions to be wary of.

  • Age – What year were you born? What year did you graduate from high school? When did you first start working? How long do you plan to work before you retire?
  • Race, Ethnicity or Color – Where are you from? What race are you? Where is your family from?
  • Gender or Sex – What does your wife/husband do for a living? Are you comfortable working for a female boss?
  • Country of national origin or birthplace – Where were you born? Can you provide a birth certificate? Are you a US citizen?
  • Religion – Who is your pastor? What denomination are you? Are you religious?
  • Disability – Do you have a disability? Do you have a mental illness? Have you ever suffered a workplace injury? Have you experienced any serious illness in the past year?
  • Marital or family status or pregnancy – Are you married? Are you single? Do you plan to get pregnant in the next few years? Do you have any children? Are you pregnant?

There can be exceptions to these rules based on the organization or job required. For example, movie producers can discriminate based on gender, age, and looks when hiring an actor; or a religious organization can discriminate based on religion. However, for most organizations these are topics they cannot ask you about. You can see more examples of illegal interview questions at


What To Do If You Were Being Discriminated Against in an Interview

First off, if you feel you are being asked illegal questions in an interview, you can either politely decline to answer, indirectly answer the question without providing personal information you are uncomfortable sharing, or just end the interview. You should never feel pressured to work for a company that makes you uncomfortable, or continue in an interview that makes you uncomfortable.

If you feel you have been discriminated against and want to take action, you will need to file a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In order to do that, you will need to contact an attorney in your state that specializes in labor issues, or contact your local EEOC office directly.

Learn more at


This is not legal advice, but advice on how to get started. If you are concerned about your situation or unsure if what happened in your interview constitutes discrimination, please contact an attorney for a consultation.