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Do you have rights during the interview process?

The interview started out normally. He asked you questions about your work, experience and any hobbies. Then it changed into a scene straight out of Mad Men. He started asking about your family, which was strange but not out of the ordinary. He noticed the ring on your finger and asked about your spouse. Do you have children? When do you plan on having them? Strange questions, but you answer because you need this job.

Both federal and Missouri law prohibit employment discrimination based upon sex. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from making a hiring decision based upon the sex of the applicant. What this means during the interview process, is that employers cannot ask questions regarding family matters, marital status or other personal questions. The reason this interviewer went down that path is because he did not want to hire a female employee who may become pregnant. Regardless of why he may ask these questions, they are illegal under federal law.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act also extends protections to employees, both male and female, for taking pregnancy-related leave of absences from work. Similar to jury duty, employers are prohibited from firing or punishing employees for taking leave from work to care for a newborn. Additional protections are extended under the Family Medical Leave Act to care for sick children and aging parents.

Some standard topics an interview may not ask of female applicants include marital status, children, contraceptives, family planning matters for pregnancy and whether or not your spouse is working. If presented with these questions you may:

  • Refuse to answer.
  • Ask the relevance of the question.
  • Ask about the intent of the question and try to address the concern.
  • Answer the question and move on.

All strategies carry risk and may jeopardize your employment opportunity. If you were asked one of these questions or believe that your hiring prospects were affected because of your sex, then consulting with an employment attorney can inform you of your rights. You have a right to a job. Don't let an ignorant interviewer deny you the right to have a fair opportunity to work.

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