Supervisors can get in trouble during job interviews by misphrasing questions about legitimate issues. Here are four examples, along with the right ways to ask:
1. Possible disability. You see that an applicant has only one arm. You want to know if he can handle the physical demands of your job.
Wrong question: How do you lift using your one good arm? (Disability discrimination.)
Right question: This job requires lifting 40-pound boxes. Can you perform the functions of the job with or without accommodation?
2. Immigration issues. You suspect an applicant is an illegal immigrant. Her accent is that of a Mexican state known in your industry as a source of illegal migrants.
Wrong question: May I ask where you were born? (Race/national origin discrimination.)
Right question: If you’re offered this job, could you prove you have the right to work in the U.S.?
3. Name change. You see a shiny new wedding ring on an applicant’s hand. You wonder if she has a work history under a former name.
Wrong question: What is your maiden name? (Gender/marital status discrimination.)
Right question: Is there any other name we should know about to check your employment history?
4. Religious holiday issues. Your applicant is wearing a skullcap, and you assume he is an observant Jew. You aren’t sure if he will be able to work on Saturday, as required.
Wrong question: Does your religion prevent you from working Saturdays? (Religious discrimination.)
Right question: Will you be available to work Saturdays, as stated in our job ad?
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