Avoiding Unlawful Discrimination in Interviews
What questions can—and can't—we ask prospective employees and their references?

Question:
We are trying to fill a vacant position on our church staff. Because we're a small church, consistent attendance by our employees is crucial. Is it legal in an interview to ask approximately how many days in the past year a prospective employee has been absent from work? Can I ask the prospective employee's references this question?

Answer:
Asking these questions could lead to charges of unlawful discrimination against your church. But first we must determine whether the nondiscrimination statutes apply to your church. If your church is small enough (less than 15 employees), then the federal nondiscrimination statutes do not apply. Second, though you did not indicate your city, county and state, it is helpful to note that most states and many cities also have nondiscrimination statutes. They may apply if the federal statute does not apply. So you will need to research your state, county and city to determine whether nondiscrimination laws apply to your church in any of those domains.

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Posted: November 9, 2010
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