Counsels' Corner: More Questions are now Off-Limits in a Job Interview!

Published Thursday, February 28, 2019
by Gail Cecchettini Whaley, Esq.

Business interviewSeveral interview questions are now off-limits in California and the distinction between “okay” and “over-the-line” is critical. Whether you conduct your own interviews or rely on assistance from a recruiter, be sure to steer clear from these six topics:

1. Any Criminal History?

California employers with five or more employees are prohibited from asking applicants any questions about conviction history until after a conditional job offer has been made. Even then, a specific process must be followed. See our fact sheet for more information.

2. How Much Do You Earn at Your Current Job?

Since 2018, it has been unlawful to ask a job candidate any questions about their current or prior salary. An employer can ask a candidate about their salary expectations for the position for which they are applying, but not about their salary in past positions.

3. When Did You Graduate?

Stay away from questions that reveal a candidate’s age. Instead, ask whether the employee has the required degree or credential and, if verification is important, ask for a copy. The date a job applicant graduated is not as important as whether they graduated. Any questions regarding a candidate’s age are prohibited under California law.

4. Are You Married? Do you Have any Kids?

While these types of questions may seem natural to discuss when you are trying to get to know someone, they must be avoided during the recruitment process. The Department of Fair Employment clearly states that employers may not ask any questions about marital status or age or about the number of children/dependents.

5. That’s an Interesting Name—Where Is it From?

Asking someone about their name can result in claims of national origin or ancestry discrimination, both prohibited under California law.

6. Do you have a California Drivers License? What is Your Driver’s License Number?

If the position you are recruiting for does not require the employee to drive, don’t ask the candidate for their driver’s license. Doing so could violate California’s protections against national origin and citizenship discrimination. If the job requires driving (not just on occasion, but it’s part of the position) or if a license is required by law for the job, you can ask about a valid drivers license during an interview.

In case you are wondering, yes, an employer must still verify eligibility to work after hire and some employees will choose to present a drivers’ license as part of that process.

Final Note:

Interviewers should avoid any question or topic related to membership in a protected class. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has a great guide that can help employers with recruiting questions to avoid. And CEA has a great team of recruiters who can assist you in finding qualified applicants today!


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