As you work with your clients to prepare them for job interviews, one important area to cover is the type of questions that may lead to disclosure of protected information. This can be a challenge for a job seeker that isn’t prepared or is unsure how to respond. The following is a list of questions to consider:
1. Birth dates: While it’s okay to ask about an applicant’s age if the law (state or federal) or certain occupations require it, asking for a birth date is generally off limits!
2. Military discharge information: If the discharge was for medical reasons, this may indicate to the employer that the job seeker has a service-connected disability. It may also reveal an applicant’s age based on the service entry date. On a positive note, veteran status may give a job seeker preference over other candidates. Be sure to educate your veteran job seekers on the type of questions and how that may affect employment.
3. Time off from work: Questions about time off and what it was used for could inadvertently reveal information an applicant would prefer to keep private. Have your client practice how she/he will respond to gaps in employment history, including absences from work.
4. Citizenship: Questions about citizenship and country of birth are prohibited.
5. Your Salutation (e.g. Mrs., Mr., Miss): Many states actually prohibit employers from asking the salutation question to avoid marital status discrimination. Make it a point to check out the legal requirements in your state.
6. Social Security Number: While an employer may need this information after an offer of employment is made to verify an applicant’s right to work, transmitting a Social Security number electronically or via a job application poses an unnecessary risk for the applicant.
7. Ticket to Work: This is actually a question I’ve seen in the past couple of years on the applications of several large employers. Ticket to Work is an employment program for Social Security beneficiaries, all of whom have a disability in order to qualify for benefits. While the employer may be trying to qualify the job seeker for additional services or a tax credit, this question relates directly to a job seeker’s disability status.
Please take the time to talk with your job seekers who receive this benefit about how they’d like to respond. It can be very disconcerting to answer yes only to find out the employer just wanted to qualify for a tax credit.
8. Disability Status: While it’s a given that this question is illegal, an employer can ask a candidate if she/he can perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodation. If an accommodation isn’t needed, there is no need to disclose. Discussing the pro’s and con’s of disclosure is a must for your candidates with disabilities.
If you have other questions you think need to be added to our list, please email them over! You can respond to this email with your suggestions.