During the hiring phase, federal, state or local laws can prohibit employers from asking applicants certain questions that may be considered discriminatory. Let’s look at the questions that can land you in hot water — and legal alternatives.

If you’re ever in doubt as to whether a question is prohibited, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website for detailed guidance.

You Can’t Ask: How old are you? When did you graduate?

Why? Inquiring about age could be used as evidence of age discrimination.

You Can Ask: Are you over 18? Are you of legal age to serve alcohol?


You Can’t Ask: Are you a U.S. citizen?

Why? Inquiring about a person’s citizenship status could lead to national origin discrimination claims.

You Can Ask: Are you authorized to work in the United States?


You Can’t Ask: Are you pregnant? Do you have children?

Why? Asking questions regarding family or marital status could violate state or local discrimination laws.

You Can Ask: Will working overtime be a problem? Will business travel be a problem?


You Can’t Ask: Are you in good health?

Why? The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits asking about or rejecting a job candidate due to mental or physical disabilities.

You Can Ask: Can you perform the essential duties with or without a reasonable accommodation?


You Can’t Ask: Are there any religious holidays or hours you can’t work?

Why? Inquiring about religious holidays could be used as evidence of religious discrimination.

You Can Ask: Can you work all the days and hours required by this job?


You Can’t Ask: What country are you from?

Why? Requesting this information suggests that race and/or ethnicity will be unlawfully used as a basis for hiring.

You Can Ask: If you want this information for affirmative action purposes, you can ask candidates to volunteer it on the job application, but you can never require them to do so.


You Can’t Ask: How many sick days did you take at your last job?

Why? Asking about sick time can reveal information about a person’s health-related conditions in violation of the ADA.

You Can Ask: Are you able to meet the attendance requirements of this job?


You Can’t Ask: Do you use illegal drugs?

Why? The ADA prohibits asking questions about possible addictions.

You Can Ask: Are you willing to undergo drug testing?


A good rule of thumb is if the question is not directly related to the job, it probably shouldn’t be asked. Limit questions to the applicant’s suitability and qualifications for the available position.

Conduct your hiring process legally with the Job Application Smart App. It ensures your employment applications are compliant with all federal and state laws. Plus, it allows candidates to complete your application online right from a link on your website!
  • Even the most innocent questions land employers in legal hot water.
  • Certain job application questions may be considered discriminatory.
  • Avoid any questions about personal issues and focus only on job-related topics, such as past job performance.