Protect Yourself in The Interview:  Illegal Questions 

Trying to find a job can be challenging in this job market, especially if you are a person with disability. Even though the Civil Rights protection and American with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been around for decades, often times, many people with disabilities really do not understand how to apply this protection during interview situations.

Did you know that it is illegal for employers to discriminate in hiring people because of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability? Here are some examples of ‘illegal’ questions you may be asked during an interview and which may be used to possibly discriminate against hiring you.

What is your race?

What is your age?

Are you married?

What is your religious background?

Do you have any children?

Do you have a back injury?

Have you ever been on Workers’ Compensation?

Are you disabled?

Do you take any medications?

How many sick days did you take last year? How long have you been handicapped?

Employers may not ask you questions about your disability, only your abilities! BUT, not all employers know the law or follow the law.  So, if an employer ‘accidentally’ asks an illegal question in a job interview, one of the best ways to protect yourself against discrimination is to always –  address the concern, not the question!

For example, an employer asks you how old you are in a job interview? Prevailing negative stereotypes include that older workers are too old to learn new information, they could be slow learning new things, not have many work years remaining, or are frequently ill.

In your reponse, stand up for your rights and address the concerns, not the question! “I am hoping to work for my next company for ten years.”  (or) “ I am sure my excellent work experience and years of dependability will be an asset to your company.” (or)  “I am open to learning new information.“

Disability related questions in an interview often reflect the following concerns or stereotypes regarding hiring someone with a disability: people with disabilities may be too difficult or costly to accommodate, drive up health insurance costs, may re-injure themselves, will be frequently absent or dangerous to themselves or others.

By addressing their concerns not the question, your responses may sound like: “I am not sure what your concern is, but I had a great attendance record at my past job.” (or)  “I might need a little help with __________.  Would that be a problem?”  (or)  “I am able to perform all of the essential duties of this job.”  “I do not need health benefits.  I have had this disability my whole life and I have held many jobs.”

Throughout history, different populations have had to fight for their right to live equally and to have equal opportunity.  Slowly, through individual and group efforts, people are becoming free to live without fear and practice their religions, vote, travel and work without imposed barriers due to race, sex, nationality, sexual preference, age, or physical and mental abilities.

Next time you are asked an illegal question, be prepared and address the concerns!  It is important that you stand up for your rights as a person with many different abilities and assets!  Discrimination laws take many years and much individual effort before they are truly accepted.  If getting a job is on your list of resolutions, do not let discrimination get in the way!


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