What Questions Can an Employer Legally Ask You?


An employer can legally ask questions regarding the ability of an employee or applicant to perform work assignments necessary to fulfill his or her job responsibilities. Any questions that indicate discrimination or bias toward certain individuals could bring about a lawsuit and financial judgment against the organization. Questions should only be directed to a candidate’s qualification and ability to do a particular job. There are ways, however, to legally query an individual.


Questions may be asked to establish that a potential employee meets the legal age requirements necessary for the job. Specific queries regarding a date of birth or graduation should be avoided.

Army Reserve/National Guard

To determine if an employee will need to take leave to fulfill service responsibilities, the employer can ask if there are any upcoming events requiring extensive leave from work. An individual may also be asked to explain the discharge from his or her military service. Questions regarding the nature of military discharge or record may not be broached.

Criminal Convictions

Many organizations now perform background checks on their employees and potential employees. While employers are not allowed to ask about arrest records, it is acceptable to discuss convictions that are directly related to the employee’s job description.

Health/Physical Abilities

An employer can ask how an individual would perform a job and if the requirements could be accomplished with or without assistance. If a disability is obvious or is disclosed to the employer, the employer may ask how particular job functions would be performed that could be impacted by the disability. Focus, however, should be on an individual’s ability, not disability. An employee’s attendance record may also be questioned.

Marital/Family Status

Employers may ask if there are any personal responsibilities which might interfere with job attendance or performance. Questions regarding ability to travel, availability for overtime or working weekends are appropriate. Personal questions on marital status, number of children or pregnancy plans are illegal.

National Origin/Race

It is acceptable for an employee to be asked his or her eligibility to work in the United States and his or her ability to speak, read and write the language that's necessary to communicate on the job. Questions regarding birthplace, national origins of parents, home language and ancestry are prohibited.


Employers are required to make a reasonable effort to accommodate everyone’s observance of religious beliefs. An employee can be queried on his or her ability to work on specific days. Asking if an individual is available to work weekends and holidays is not allowed.

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