Labor and Employment

Employees Applying for a Job FAQ

Q: Can an employer refuse to hire me because of a criminal conviction?

  • A:Generally, yes but only if your conviction is related to the duties and responsibilities of the job you are seeking. Some states place other restrictions on the use of conviction history in screening job applicants. If the employer obtains the conviction information from a credit reporting service, the service will provide information on convictions that occurred within the last seven years unless the job has a salary of $ 75,000 or more. Further, if the employer relies on the conviction history in a credit report, you must be given an opportunity to see the report and to make corrections.

Q: I know I was the most qualified applicant, but I didn't get the job. That's discrimination, right?

  • A:No, an employer is not required to hire the "most qualified" person. Anti-discrimination laws only prohibit an employer from basing employment decisions on age, sex, sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, religion and disability. A decision on the level of knowledge, skills, abilities and work experience that an applicant possesses are "most qualified" is a subjective one and may vary depending on the requirements of the job or the level of performance desired by the employer.

Q: I was fired from my last job. What should I tell prospective employers?

  • A:Tell the truth. If you were fired for poor job performance, you lie about it and the lie is later discovered, you may be fired from the new job for lying on the application. Present the termination in the most favorable light by listing a contact person who respected your contributions to your former employer or by explaining what you learned from the situation. If asked who your supervisor was, provide accurate information. Dwelling on what happened or being overly critical of your former employer may hurt your opportunities. Of course, if you were terminated for a reason beyond your control, such as a reduction in force or company reorganization, the explanation should be completely understandable.

Q: I'm pregnant. Can an employer refuse to hire me?

  • A:Assuming that you otherwise meet the qualification requirements for the position, the answer depends upon the type of working conditions that the successful applicant will be exposed to in completing assigned duties and responsibilities. If the job you are seeking is in an office environment, your pregnancy should not interfere with job requirements and should not be the reason for refusing to hire you. However, if the working conditions will expose the fetus to harm from certain chemicals or other harmful conditions, then the employer may refuse to hire you.

Q: The application states a polygraph test must be taken before an offer can be made. Do I have to take the test?

  • A:Federal law prohibits private employers from using polygraph tests to screen job applicants unless the employer provides security services for valuables or designated facilities or is engaged the manufacture of controlled substances. However, state law is controlling if is more restrictive than federal law, and there are many states that prohibit the use of polygraph testing on all job applicants for any type of job. The federal law does not prohibit polygraph testing of applicants for government jobs.

Q: The company requires both a psychological and drug test for prospective employees. Isn't this an invasion of privacy?

  • A:While psychological testing is not prohibited, there is a concern that certain test questions are an invasion of constitutionally protected privacy rights or are prohibited under state and federal employment discrimination laws. Employers should be certain that test questions are job related. Drug and alcohol pre-employment screening is not prohibited under any state or federal law because the employer has a right to ensure that drug and alcohol abuse will not result in safety risks, high insurance costs, absenteeism and employee turnover.

Q: What type of information can be gathered during a background check?

  • A:A background check can consist of some or all of the following information about you:

    • Conviction history
    • Credit history
    • Driving records
    • Employment history
    • Educational background
    • Professional license verification
    • Civil litigation records

    Generally, an employer has a duty to not hire employees who may harm or pose a danger to co-workers, customers and others. Because of the rise of negligent hiring lawsuits, employers must check the backgrounds of applicants. However, employers should not use information in a way that may lead to unfair labor practices, employment discrimination complaints or other prohibited practices.

Q: What types of questions are illegal for an employer to ask me?

  • A:Federal law forbids an employer from discriminating against any person on the basis of sex, age, race, national origin or religion. Your employer may ask questions related to the job you're seeking, but not personal, private questions that don't have a direct bearing on your ability to perform the functions of the job. Topics that your prospective employer should not inquire about include:

    • Medical or disabling conditions you may have
    • Whether or not you are married, or have plans to marry
    • Whether or not you have or plan to have children
    • Your religious beliefs (unless the employer is a religious-based organization)
    • Your age
    • Sexual orientation
    • Where you were born
    • Whether you have ever been arrested

    Still, not all personal questions are prohibited. Some may have a relationship to the job you are seeking and it is best to be honest with yourself about how personal issues might impact your ability to successfully perform job requirements. For instance, having children may prohibit you from completing travel that is required for the position. If you accept the position and then are not able to fulfill the job requirements, you may be back looking for a new position sooner than you ever anticipated. A question about your age may really be directed towards finding out if you of legal age, that is, over 18 years of age.

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