For most people, the job interview process is always a little intimidating and awkward. However, it can quickly become much worse when a potential employer begins asking you inappropriate and improper questions. Most HR professionals know what they should and shouldn’t ask during the various states of the typical interview process, but when a potential employer does begin asking questions about subjects that, legally, should play no role in a hiring decision, it can raise a number of red flags.

Broadly speaking, employers should not ask about any subject matter that is a basis for protection under state and federal employment discrimination laws. However, many bases — such as race, gender and age — are fairly evident during any face-to-face interview. A disability may be evident as well. The improper questions tend to be those that concern bases for protection that are not immediately apparent:

  • Arrest records
  • Sexual orientation or transgender status
  • Marital status
  • Religion
  • Non-apparent disability

In New York, employers may not ask you to disclose arrests that did not result in a conviction and are not still pending or any prior conviction that has been sealed or expunged. While employers are prohibited from categorically refusing to hire an applicant because of his or her criminal record, they may ask about it to evaluate whether the applicant’s prior conviction would pose an unreasonable risk or have a direct bearing on the his or her ability to perform the job.

In some cases, whether these questions are proper depends on the stage you have reached in the interview process. For instance, once an employer has made the decision to hire you, it is proper — and even advisable — to inquire whether you require any accommodations for a disability or religious practice so that the employer can begin arranging the necessary accommodations. If you feel you were asked improper questions during a job interview and were subsequently denied employment, however, it may be worth contacting a New York City discrimination lawyer.