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Job Interviews and the Law

Employers are limited on what they can ask job applicants. In general, the questions must relate to the skills and background necessary to perform the job itself.

Employers cannot ask for age, sexual orientation or religious affiliation, nor can they ask whether a potential employee has or has had a disability unless it would interfere with his or her performance.

Performing a “background check” is permitted as long as the applicant has given his or her specific consent. Items frequently requested include credit reports, driving records, education records and bankruptcy records. Employers cannot ask for an applicant to take a lie detector test unless they would be regularly handling drugs or are in the security business.

It is also illegal for employers to ask about a prospective employee’s spouse or children, but questions regarding availability to work specific hours and travel on business are appropriate.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act provides a number of protections to pregnant women, aimed at making sure that employers treat pregnant women the same as other applicants or employees with temporary disabilities or limitations.

Below are other questions that employers cannot ask:

  • If you have ever been arrested (although they can ask the applicant if he or she has been convicted of a crime if the records were not sealed by courts)
  • How many sick days you took off on your last job (though they can ask if you can meet certain job attendance requirements)
  • If you have ever had a job-related injury or received workers’ compensation
  • If you are taking prescription drugs (this cannot be asked until a job offer is made)
  • If you will take a medical examination (this question cannot be asked until a job offer is made)

Questions can be asked about whether the applicant uses or has used illegal drugs or has been arrested for driving under the influence.

Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page

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