If your venture is successful, then chances are you'll have to hire additional people. That means questions to ask yourself before you make the hiring decision and questions to ask prospective employees. You want to make sure you're really ready and that the people you consider are the right ones for the company.

But you also should consider whether the questions you ask are legally permissible. Not all are and a recent survey by CareerBuilder of more than 2,100 hiring managers found that 20 percent reported asking a question in a job interview only to find out later that they weren't legally allowed to do so.

The problem is that some questions directly address various protected legal statuses. You can't discriminate in hiring based on such factors as race, national origin, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, or military discharge status under federal law. Here is a list of some of the problem questions:

  • What is your religious affiliation?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • What is your political affiliation?
  • What is your race, color or ethnicity?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you disabled?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children or plan to?
  • Are you in debt?
  • Do you social drink or smoke?

As CareerBuilder pointed out, it may be that the format of a given question is what gets you into trouble. For example, you can't ask someone about military discharge status, but you could ask about training, education, or work experience received during service time. You can't ask people if they are citizens, but you can ask if they are legally able to seek employment in the U.S.

This is not an area to tell yourself is unimportant. No one likes to deal with monitoring what they say, but the wrong question in this case could put you on the wrong end of a lawsuit. And it's easy to find yourself in the wrong spot without intending to. I remember many years ago talking to an employee who worked for me about a messy hairstyle. The head of HR sat me down and explained that the topic was not legally permissible where we were. Nothing bad came of it, happily enough, but it could have. Just because no one ever laid out the legal boundaries for you isn't a valid legal excuse.

Published on: Apr 10, 2015