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Things to Avoid When Conducting Employee Interviews

Conducting interviews in a manner that allows you to gain insights into potential new hires is already challenging. But asking the wrong questions in an in-person interview or on a job application can also open the door for legal issues. State and federal laws strictly prohibit discrimination in hiring based on:

  • Race/color
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Nationality
  • Pregnancy

Because hiring is often a subjective process, it can be difficult to prove that these factors did not play a role in your decision whether to hire a particular applicant.

While the phrase, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you,” is bad advice in most legal cases, in this particular context it might actually have some merit. The best way to avoid being accused of making hiring decisions based on impermissible factors is to avoid eliciting information about those factors in the first place. Questions regarding religious preference, familial status and disability should generally be avoided until after the hiring decision is made. If allegations of discrimination based on these factors later arise, the fact that your company was not aware of their existence may sometimes be a viable defense.

Of course there does come a point when an employer must gather such information. An employer must be informed of an applicant’s disability to prepare the necessary reasonable accommodation. Similarly, if an employee’s religious observance requires an accommodation, the employer must know this.

Many employers utilize pre-employment medical examinations to rule out preexisting conditions for workers’ compensation purposes as well as to avoid using an employee in ways that could cause injury. These types of inquiries, however, should be reserved until after an offer of employment has been extended.

An experienced Washington, DC employment lawyer can help your company evaluate and reform its hiring practices to minimize exposure to this type of liability.

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