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3 Laws that Affect the Interview Process (And How You Can Avoid Breaking Them)

Hiring the right employees is a critical business function. With a vast number of potential candidates, finding the right fit for your company is not always as simple as reading over a resume and cover letter. The interview process is a vital component of hiring procedures, but it can also be stressful and time consuming. Further, the type of questions hiring managers ask could potentially be a violation of the law. There are several laws that affect the interview process, and today, I'll cover three of those laws and go over how to phrase interview questions so that you can get the answers you need to make appropriate hiring decisions, while ensuring the candidates' rights are not violated.

1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a civil rights and U.S. labor law that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII specifically prohibits this type of discrimination in regard to employment.

To avoid breaking this law during your interview process, consider these Dos and Don'ts:

When interviewing candidates, race will usually be at least somewhat evident, but race-related discussions or questions may imply a preoccupation with that factor, so they should be avoided altogether.


To avoid questions that may appear discriminatory against certain religious groups, ask questions like:

"What professional associations are you a member of?" instead of "What outside activities do you participate in?"

Related reading: A Handy Guide to Successful Employment Screening

Sex/Marital Status

Instead of asking: 

"Are you married?"

"When do you plan to start a family?"

"Do you have children?"


"Are you available to travel frequently?"

"Can you work overtime with no notice?"

"Can you work evenings and weekends?"

"When we check references/do a background check, are there other names we should look under?"

National Origin

Instead of asking:

"Are you a citizen of the US?"

"What country are you from?"

"Where is your accent from?"

"What nationality is your last name?"

"When does your visa expire?"


"If you are hired, are you able to provide documentation to prove that you are eligible to work in the U.S.?"

2. Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects certain applicants and employees 40 years of age and older from discrimination on the basis of age in hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation; or terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

To avoid breaking this law during your interview process, consider these Dos and Don'ts.

Instead of asking:

"When did you graduate?"

"When do you intend to retire?"


"Are you old enough to do this type of work?"

"Can you supply transcripts of your education?"

3. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by Congress in 1990. It is a comprehensive civil rights law that addresses the needs of people with disabilities, prohibiting discrimination in employment, public services, housing, voting, public accommodations, education, and telecommunications. Businesses with more than 15 employees are required to comply with the law. For additional details about the ADA and how your business must comply, click here to read our blog post, Is Your Business ADA Compliant?

To avoid breaking this law during your interview process, consider these Dos and Don'ts.

Instead of asking:

"Do you have a disability?"

"Have you ever filed a workers compensation claim?"

"Do you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?"


"After reviewing the job description, can you do the duties listed in the job description, with or without accommodation?

Keep in mind, if an applicant has an obvious disability or reveals a hidden disability, you may ask the person to describe or demonstrate how he/she would perform job duties.

Crafting your interview questions in a way that will help you find the best candidates for your company and the open position is vitally important, but it's also important that your questions do not have any type of discriminatory undertones. Select and design questions carefully to ensure that you get the information that you need to make the right hiring decisions, while avoiding inquiries that might imply discriminatory intent.

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Karen McGee

Karen McGee, Sr. HR Generalist, joined SWBC PEO in 2014 bringing with her a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Wayland Baptist. Karen comes to SWBC PEO with over 25 years of human resources management experience. Prior to joining SWBC PEO, Karen worked as a Human Resources Business Partner for a large utility company in San Antonio.

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