Dealing With Illegal Interview Questions

When interviewing for a job, you should understand your rights as an applicant. You have the right to certain privacies and by law, employers cannot ask you questions regarding specific personal information.

So what can and can’t an employer ask you in an interview? Specifics on age, gender or sex, religion, country of origin, disability, pregnancy, marital or family status, living situation, if you’ve previously applied for workman’s compensation, credit, and financial status are all examples of topics that should not be explicitly asked in an interview (“Illegal Interview Questions- What Not To Ask Candidates”, 2019). If the applicant offers the information on their own, that is at their discretion. The interviewer may ask around these topics in order to be sure that the applicant is available and physically capable of doing the job, but that is the extent that the questioning can go.

Why would an interviewer ask these personal questions in the first place? Some may ask because they want to get to know more about their applicants and they are unaware of what is appropriate and what is not, but applicants are still entitled to privacy rights. Especially in the cases of questioning that may have discriminatory motives, the applicant is not required to answer illegal interview questions.

So, what do you do if an interviewer asks an illegal or inappropriate question? Depending on your personality and comfort with confrontation, there a few ways to handle this situation respectfully and maturely. The simple one—answer the question. For example, if asked about your religious beliefs, you could answer “I attend church, but I prefer to keep my views separate from work” (Doyle, 2019). This way of dealing with the situation is much less confrontational, but still gives up the applicant’s rights to privacy. Applicants are also entitled to not answer these sorts of questions. If an applicant feels uncomfortable or like their privacy is being invaded by the questions, they could simply ask how the information relates to the job being discussed. If it doesn’t, redirect the conversation.

Furthermore, if a truly inappropriate or offensive question is asked, this is the time to decide if the employer is one in which you would like to work. IT is not a good sign if your interviewer is unaware of what questions can and cannot be asked. Pay attention to your impression of the culture at the workplace, and think about if it is one in which you would enjoy to work and thrive.

Although most HR personnel should be familiar with (and using) the appropriate practices for interviewing candidates, it may not always go as expected. If you are an applicant that is educated on your rights, and you communicate effectively, this should be of no issue.

References:

Doyle, A. (2019, March 14). Tips for How to Answer Interview Questions Employers

Should Not Ask. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-answer    inappropriate-interview-questions-2061334

 

Illegal Interview Questions – What Not to Ask Candidates. (2019, May 22). Retrieved from

https://www.betterteam.com/illegal-interview-questions

 

For more information, check out these helpful articles:

https://www.betterteam.com/illegal-interview-questions

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/job-interview-questions-that-are-illegal-1918488

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-to-answer-inappropriate-interview-questions-2061334

Questions that if you’re a transgender job applicant, you may have

Gavel On Rainbow Flag

Last time, we provided some resources to help transgender students look for jobs once they’ve graduated. Still, if you’re transgender, you know that there will be questions you have either during the interview process or the hiring stage regarding your workplace rights.

For example, right off the bat, you may be wondering whether or not you should include your preferred name on your job application.

According to Jillian T. Weiss, the executive director of Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, using your birth name on a job application is not a legal necessity.

Weiss does say, however, that if an applicant is asked to provide any previous names that they have gone by, on the application, it is likely that the employer will be initiating a background check. In this case, it may be beneficial to be open and honest about your gender identity as omitting the information may be seen as a misrepresentation of yourself.

Depending on whether or not you wish to receive employee health insurance, once you’ve been hired by a company or organization, know that you will have to specify the gender you wish the insurance company to identify you as.

According to Mary Beth Barritt of the University of Vermont, depending on your specified gender preference, you may be ineligible for insurance coverage for certain gender-specific treatments.

But, don’t worry.

According to HIPAA law, a law that regulates the sharing of health information between individuals and their healthcare providers, a patient’s gender identity cannot be disclosed to an employer without the individual’s consent.

With HIPAA law in mind, you may be wondering whether there are other workplace protections in place for transgender employees. The answer is that… it’s complicated.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employer cannot discriminate against an employee based on their sex, race, color, national origin and religion. However, Title VII does not explicitly provide legal protections for individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, in recent years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, has fought to expand this protection.

In 2011, the EEOC brought to the 11th Circuit Court United States Court of Appeals a case of a transgender female who alleged unlawful discrimination by her employer, the Georgia General Assembly (GCA).

In her claim, the plaintiff, a transgender female, stated that she had been unfairly terminated from her position at the GCA because she had gone through a gender transition while employed there.

Referencing a Supreme Court decision from 1989, in which, a woman was denied a promotion at work because her supervisor felt that she “did not act as a woman should act”, the Court of Appeals decided that a human being is classified as transgender based on “the perception that his or her behavior transgresses gender stereotypes [and gender-behavioral norms]”. Since, according to the Cornell Law School, The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, dictates that, “individuals must be treated in the same manner as others in similar conditions and circumstances”, the EEOC concluded the plaintiff was unlawfully terminated.

In recent years, at least two other cases appealed by the EEOC and tried by the Court of Appeals have come to the same conclusion.

First, in 2004, when Jimmie L. Smith had his employment terminated after he “began to express a more feminine appearance [at work]” and notified his employer he would be transitioning from male to female. The second occurred in 2016, when Jennifer Chavez, a transgender female, was immediately terminated from Credit Nation LLC. for, “sleeping on company time”, although; she had had no previous infractions and company policy dictated measures that worked to correct employee behavior before termination was considered.

The EEOC doesn’t just qualify sex discrimination as unlawful termination, though. According to the EEOC’s official website their definition also includes:

The fact remains that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and The Equal Protections Clause are up for interpretation by state governments. Despite this, 92% of “CEI rated employers”, provide gender identity protections for transgender individuals, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Society has a long way to go, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to work regardless race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity but that doesn’t mean we won’t get there.

References:

Price waterhouse v. hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989)., 1989).

Smith v. city of salem, 378 F.3d 566 (6th cir. 2004), 2004).

Glenn V. brumby 663 F.3d 1312 (11th cir. 2011)., 2011).

Chavez v. credit nation auto sales, LLC., 2016 WL 158820 (11th cir. jan. 14, 2016)., 2016).

Title VII of the civil rights act of 1964. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm

Barritt, B. M. (2010). FAQ’s for transgender job seekers. Retrieved from https://www.ou.edu/career/pdfs/FAQtransjobseekers.pdf

Fidas, D., & Cooper, L. (2017). Corporate equality index 2017. (). Washington, D.C.: Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (2017). What you should know about EEOC and the enforcement protections for LGBT workers (examples of LGBT-related sex discrimination claims).. Retrieved from https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/enforcement_protections_lgbt_workers.cfm

Weiss, T. J. (4 October 2011). Trans job applications: To name or not to name?. Retrieved from http://bilerico.lgbtqnation.com/2011/10/trans_job_applications_to_name_or_not_to_name.php

 

Job resources for transgender students

 

Equal opportunityResume building, interview preparation and cover letter writing are tough beasts to conquer to secure a job. However, there is a less frequently talked about but far tougher beast to conquer when job searching: workplace discrimination.

Yes, even in 2017 discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, religion, sexuality, and in the case of today’s blog post, gender identity, is still a prominent issue.

Last year, the rate of unemployment for transgender individuals was triple the rate of the general population—at 15% compared to 7.5% for the general population–according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS).

Of the 27,000 respondents for the NTDS, 27% reported not being hired for a position and 73% reported either being fired, passed up for a promotion or simply being harassed verbally or physically at work.

So obviously, there are still strides to be made. Nevertheless, there are resources available to help place transgender individuals with companies that will make them feel welcome and valued. Here’s a few:

360HR: This is a national job coaching firm that partners with employers to build culturally diverse workforces.

All you have to do is fill out an online application providing where you’re located, your resume, your LinkedIn URL (if you don’t have one you should sign up for one) and whether or not you’re able and willing to relocate for a job and 360HR will help find the right fit for you.

Out for Work (OFW): OFW helps students cultivate and enhance their skills, explore career options, master job search techniques and strategies and research employment opportunities.” Interested applicants can access their job boards for free here.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates: Like 360HR, Out & Equal works with companies—and government agencies—to provide employers with the proper training to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees feel welcomed and valued by their employers. Individuals searching for equal opportunity employers can visit the organization’s job board here.

Transgender Employment Program (TEP): The TEP operates out of San Francisco but has regional offices across the United States. They offer career coaching, job search support, leadership training, community networking opportunities and legal aid.

Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index: Every year the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which provides legal counsel to those that have experienced workplace discrimination, publishes the Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a tool for measuring best equality and inclusion corporate policies and practices.

By evaluating the following criteria the HRC is able to rate employers of Fortune 5000 companies on a percent scale of 0-100—with 0 being the lowest score an employer could receive.

  • Internal Revenue Service 990 tax filings for business foundations’ gifts to anti-LGBT groups
  • Court cases and allegations against the organization concerning discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • Reported cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity reported to the HRC by individuals or unofficial LGBT groups.

To find out which companies received a 100% rating for this year’s CEI visit: http://www.hrc.org/campaigns/corporate-equality-index

References:

James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.

925Hire, L. D. (2016). 360HR more than recruiting: Understanding ¦ training ¦ succeeding.. Retrieved from http://360hr.co/

Fidas, D., & Cooper, L. (2017). Corporate equality index 2017. (). Washington, D.C.: Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. (2017). Out & equal workplace advocates. Retrieved from http://outandequal.org/

Out for Work. (2017). Out for work: Be educated. be prepared. be empowered.. Retrieved from http://outforwork.org/jobs/default.asp

Trans Employment Program. (2016). Trans employment program. Retrieved from http://transemploymentprogram.org/

Why diversity and inclusion are the keys to your company’s success

Diversity and tolerance

If you’re a business owner or manager, listen up. You’ve probably heard the terms diversity & inclusion before. However, the message behind these terms has gotten lost in office politics.

Diversification and inclusion isn’t about hiring an employee to meet a quota based on ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, disability, sexuality, education or religion.

They are about hiring an employee because their differences provide them a unique perspective. It is about valuing them as an employee regardless of these factors.

While these may hardly seem like issues we’re still facing in the 21st century, let’s consider these facts:

  • Men are 30% more likely than women to be promoted from entry- level positions to manager (Women in the Workplace).
  • Only 5 out of all Fortune 500 companies have African American CEOs (CDC, Diversity Inc.).
  • 40% of people think there’s a double-standard against hiring women—both men and women are more likely to hire men over women (Pew).
  • 67% of job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers (Glassdoor).
  • 57% of employees think their companies should be more diverse (Glassdoor).
  • 41% of managers say that they are “too busy” to implement diversity initiatives (SHRM).

Despite this, a report from the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan policy institute, found that, non-white individuals made up 33% of the workforce in 2012. Women made up nearly 50% of the workforce. To increase these numbers, CEOs will have to initiate diversity and inclusion practices.

“We’re getting better year over year at understanding the importance of valuing diverse inputs and respecting our differences in ways that foster trust and collaboration”, says Erika Hopkins, head of inclusion and diversity at Staples Inc.

In fact, a recent study conducted by Stephanie N. Downey (University of Georgia), Lisa van derWerff (Dublin City University), Kecia M. Thomas (University of Georgia) and Victoria C. Plaut (School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, found a correlation between feelings of inclusion among employees whom had diverse backgrounds and their overall workplace engagement.

The study surveyed over 4,000 health sector employees and concluded that when diversity practices were effective and fostered high levels of inclusion workplace engagement was high.

The effectiveness of these diversity practices, according to the study, were largely dependent upon the “trust climate” of the workplace. If an employee of a diverse background felt that the diversity practices of the organization fostered inclusion then they were likely to act in service of the organization.

Dr. Duperval Brownlee of Ascension, a faith-based healthcare organization, spoke to this fact in Equal Opportunity magazine and suggested the key to breaking the barriers within an organization:

“It’s [Ascension] one of the nation’s largest non-profit healthcare systems, but I’ve found that ours is a culture where people come to work mission-led, whatever their position. […] Because of it, we’re more collaborative and inclusive and respectful of each other. We’re connected to a purpose bigger than us.”

References:

Burns, C., Barton, K. & Kerby, S. (12 July 2012). The state of diversity in today’s workforce. Retrieved from https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2012/07/12/11938/the-state-of-diversity-in-todays-workforce/

Downey, van derWerff, Thomas and Plaut as qtd. in Deloitte. (May 2015). The role of diversity practices and inclusion in promoting trust and employee engagement. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/human-capital/articles/role-diversity-practices-inclusion-trust-employee-engagement.html

Equal Opportunity: The Career Magazine. (Spring 2017, Ascension’s Duperval-Brownlee delivers purposeful patient care. Equal Opportunity: The Career Magazine, 50, 22.

Equal Opportunity: The Career Magazine. (Spring 2017, Managers speak out!: Valuing diversity & inclusion fosters trust & collaboration at staples. Equal Opportunity: The Career Magazine, 50, 9.

Stutes, B. (1 December 2016). The state of US workplace diversity in 14 statistics. Retrieved from http://archpointgroup.com/the-state-of-us-workplace-diversity-in-14-statistics/