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Experienced Discrimination in an Interview? Here’s What to Do

Job interviews can feel stressful. But they become even more stressful when the interview questions and discussions cross the line from your job qualifications into questions about your race, religion, sex, or other protected classifications.

U.S. and New York laws prohibit employment discrimination. Prohibited practices begin with the job listing and extend through retirement. Squarely among the prohibited practices is classifying applicants during a job interview to discriminate against them in hiring.

Read on to learn about job applicant discrimination and what you can do about it.

Identifying Discrimination During a Job Interview

Before you can do anything about applicant discrimination, you must determine whether it happened. During a job interview, an employer cannot:

  • Deny you an interview based on a characteristic like race or religion
  • Use your answers to questions to classify you for discrimination
  • Refuse to consider you for employment based on a protected classification

The classifications an employer cannot use in hiring include:

  • Race
  • National origin
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex, including sexual orientation and pregnancy
  • Age over 40
  • Disabilities that can be accommodated

Keep in mind that the law does not prohibit employers from asking questions about these topics. The law only restricts employers from making hiring decisions based on:

  • Your answers about your membership in a protected class
  • Your membership in a protected class
  • Stereotypes about you based on your membership in a protected class

An interviewer might have a non-discriminatory reason for asking personal questions. For example, asking about your parents’ country of origin might have been prompted by curiosity rather than bias.

What to Do When You Experience Discrimination in an Interview

Sometimes an interviewer will make clear their intent to discriminate. The interviewer might refuse to interview you or tell you that you cannot get hired because of your race, sex, or other characteristics.

In other situations, you will only have a feeling the interviewer or the employer plans to discriminate. In these situations, you might not clearly understand why the interviewer asked certain questions or what they plan to do with your answers.

When you experience or suspect discrimination during an interview, you have a few options:

Talk to a Lawyer

An employment lawyer has access to two pieces of information you do not. First, employment lawyers have experience with discrimination cases and can generally tell whether an interviewer has crossed the line. After you tell your story to an experienced lawyer, they can determine whether you have the facts to support a discrimination case.

Second, employment lawyers know case precedent. A lawyer can compare your case to other cases with similar fact patterns. Based on this comparison, the lawyer can evaluate your chances of succeeding in a case against the employer.

File a Complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Before filing a lawsuit for employment discrimination, you must file a charge with the EEOC. The EEOC will give you a Notice of Right to Sue when it completes its investigation. You can also request a Notice of Right to Sue before the investigation ends. You cannot file a lawsuit until you receive the notice.

Deflect and Defuse

Since the law only prohibits an employer from basing hiring decisions on improper questions, you often cannot take legal action over the improper questions. Instead, it falls on you to get out of the situation.

You could become confrontational. But this will not help you get the job if the interviewer lacked discriminatory intent.

If you still want to try to get the job, you can defuse the situation and deflect the questions. This will allow you to answer the interviewer’s questions without offending them. It will also minimize the information you give to the interviewer that could get misused.

Discrimination and Job Opportunities

It might seem trite, but if an interviewer asks inappropriate questions during a job interview, you should reconsider whether you want to work there. Employment discrimination, hostile work environments, and harassment are real. You should avoid putting yourself into a situation where it can happen to you.

To discuss discrimination you experienced during a job interview, contact the business law firm of Woods Lonergan in New York City.