HR Says: Is this Interview Question Legal?
January 19, 2011
The following is a Q&A segment between one of our readers and CAREEREALISM-Approved Career Expert, Ben Eubanks - a human resources specialist. This article series is called "HR Says."Question Is it "illegal" for employers to ask a person for the year they graduated from college? Isn't this asking for a person's age?
Using 22 and the numbers of years since graduating, one can determine one's age. During a recent interview (a NYSE listed company, over 4,000 employees, etc.), I was asked what year I graduated from college. The interviewer stated my actual age and said, "I thought you were XX (he stated an age that was 8 years younger than my actual age)." Then he went on to say he shouldn't have said that and he could get sued over that. He ended by saying, "We have people of your age working for us." By the way, I didn't get the job. Also, I have encountered a few online job applications (again, large companies) where it was mandatory to enter the year you graduated from college. I didn't receive calls from these companies regardless I met or exceeded the qualifications they were seeking for the advertised position. I realized these companies that required me to enter my year of graduation could have received applications from individuals better qualified than me. However, since these companies could calculate my age (I am 50), it makes me wonder since there are companies that do “discriminate" either inadvertently or intentionally based upon a person's age. If these companies didn't ask for my year of graduation from college then I would have thought there were better qualified applicants than myself or I was overqualified for the position. How long I've been driving? I encountered a website that asked me how many years I have been driving. Is this legal to ask? I applied for an executive sales position at this company. A company car is not one of the benefits of this position nor will I be driving a company vehicle for this position. However, the online application asked me how many years that I have been driving and it was a mandatory field. Answer Dear Legal Eagle, This is one question that I hear a lot. I have to couch my answer with an "it depends." Most of the questions like this are not illegal, however, they open the door to accusations and doubts (like yours) and companies would do well to steer clear of them. Let's look at what is and isn't protected... It's illegal for companies to discriminate against job seekers on the following qualifications:
- Age, disability, sex, race, nationality, religion, genetics, and veteran status
- Previous job performance, level of education, skills, amount of experience, etc.