What to Do About Discrimination During a Job Interview

By Douglas Lipsky

A job interview can be nerve-inducing for even the most qualified candidate, but what happens if you are discriminated against during a job interview because of your race, age, sexual orientation, or other illegal reason? While local, state, and federal laws prohibit discrimination during the hiring process, job applicants are often denied employment for discriminatory reasons. 

If you have been treated unfairly during an interview, it takes a skilled employment discrimination attorney to protect your rights. In the meantime, there is a way to identify and fight back against discrimination during a job interview, here’s how.

When Discrimination Is the Question

Employers in New York are prohibited from discriminating against prospective candidates during any stage of the hiring process, including interviews. Under applicable employment laws, employers are prohibited from asking questions about certain “protected characteristics” (e.g, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, sexual orientation)

As an example, employers cannot ask questions, such as, “hold old are you, anyway?” or “where were you born” or make similar offbase queries. And questions about disabilities are also off-limits. On the other hand, if you inform an interviewer about a disability (a common question on many online job applications is whether you need assistance to complete the application due to a disability) or it is obvious — you use a wheelchair — the interviewer is permitted to ask whether you require a reasonable accommodation. 

Ultimately, an employer that makes a hiring decision based on a discriminatory reason can be held liable.

Know Your Employment Rights During a Job Interview

While you should be prepared for any and all questions during a job interview, you don’t have to put up with discriminatory questions. If an employer does ask about your age, for example, you could offer a snarky reply by saying “old enough to know better and young enough to learn.”  

Of course, that might not go over too well. Then again, responding with, “Is it legal to ask that?” might not get you the job either. 

In the long run, the best thing to do if you believe you have been discriminated against during the hiring process is to consult with an experienced employment lawyer. Employers have an unfair advantage because they can conceal their discriminatory motives when there is no employment relationship. 

It takes a sharp lawyer to c\onduct a thorough investigation to collect important evidence such as job applications, emails, internal memos,  and firing records. Your attorney can also identify and interview witnesses to corroborate your side of the story — the employer will certainly argue “the other side” of the story. Finally, if you have a valid employment discrimination claim, your attorney can file a lawsuit to help you obtain compensation.

The Takeaway

If you have been discriminated against during a job interview, you have a right to be angry, and a right to justice. Talk to an experienced employment discrimination attorney today.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.