What Kind of Personal Questions are allowed in Job Interviews?

A Florida woman was applying for a job with an insurance company when she was asked some questions that struck her as odd. “Cynthia M.” spoke with reporters from MSNBC under the condition that her identity was concealed.

Cynthia claims she was more than qualified for the position she was interviewing for and it was going well when the interviewer began asking personal questions regarding her marital status and religious views.

“I was asked point blank if I attended church and ‘which one?’” Cynthia told MSNBC. “Is that not discrimination?”

According to discrimination laws, employers cannot deny applicants based on race, gender, age, religious views or pregnancy. But is it illegal to simply ask these questions? Unless you can prove that the employer is discriminating, it is a gray area of the law.

“Pre-employment inquiries about a person’s race, sex or pregnancy, national origin, religion or age are not technically illegal under the laws we enforce as long as they are asked of all people,” said senior attorney Justine Lisser, spokeswoman for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Employment decisions made on those bases—such as denying employment to all pregnant women, or everyone who isn’t a Christian, are illegal, however. When investigating the charge of discrimination, the EEOC will look at these types of pre-employment inquires as indications of discriminatory intent.”

Essentially, you have to prove a pattern of discrimination against the employer. However, companies should avoid asking these questions to avoid opening up opportunities for lawsuits.

Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles employment law attorneys