Questions Not to Ask on an Employment Application

The challenges of keeping an employment application compliant with state and federal laws have become more difficult. Employment laws and regulations for business owners have changed a great deal in the previous 10 years.

Employers should cautiously think about questions that are asked on their employment applications. There are plenty of questions that legally cannot be asked on an employment application. To many employers it must seem like there more questions that are prohibited to ask than ones that are legal to ask.

The following are some of the topics that are typically off-limits for employers to ask about on their employment application:

Asking a potential employee about their age, race, heritage, place of birth, sex, skin color, disabilities, arrests and convictions – (There are some exceptions). You cannot ask if they are a citizen; Federal I-9 form is the correct place to establish their citizenship standing rather than an employment application.

These categories are not so clear cut as they may appear. Case in point; you can ask a potential employee about their education and even the schools they went to. However, you cannot ask them for the exact date they attended or graduated as this may be viewed as trying to figure out how old they are.

Of course the questions associated with convictions, felonies, and arrests have to be asked in a manner that compliant with employment laws to avoid any possible legal problems. Where appropriate and permitted or required by state or federal law, a criminal background check and/or drug test may be required prior to employment.

Attorneys who specialize in employment law suggest that questions that are intended to gather information concerning age, religion, race, color, and any disabilities should completely eliminated from any application or interview.

Trying to keep updated with present employment law can consume a great deal of a company’s time. However, it is a critical part of doing business that must be done on a regular basis if your company is to avoid possible litigation and fines.

Using old employment contracts or applications may put your company at risk.It makes good sense to have an HR supervisor employed by your company consult with an attorney experienced with employment law once a year.

Attorney fees are expensive, but they will seem like a bargain when compared to the costs and problems associated with lawsuits, judgments, and fines.