Can you be discriminated against during the hiring process?

When people think about discrimination, they often mistakenly believe that you have to be employed by someone to have a case. The reality is that discrimination can happen in the early stages of an application for employment, such as during an interview or when reviewing a job application.

Employment discrimination that happens that that point can, and should, still be addressed.

What kinds of employment discrimination are prohibited?

While employers generally have a right to hire (or not hire) anyone they please, they cannot engage in certain kinds of discrimination. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants due to their:

  • National origin
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Ancestry
  • Marital status
  • Military status
  • Age (over 40)
  • Gender identity
  • Sex
  • Veteran status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Genetic information
  • Medical condition
  • Mental disability
  • Physical disability

That doesn’t mean that an employer has to hire people who fall into those categories, but unless the rejection is based on a bona fide occupational qualification, then it would be unfair to dismiss them as potential employees in the future.

FEHA stops unfair interview questions

FEHA defines which questions employers cannot ask. It states that employers cannot ask questions about the above characteristic unless they have relevance to the position. This requirement is set against employers with five or more employees. 

What should you do if an employer asks you questions about your ancestry, gender identity or other protected information? You do not have to answer. If you do and they reject your application due to your response, then you may have a case against them for discrimination.

It’s important to note down exactly what was said and how you responded. If they acted discriminatorily after that point, keep that information for your attorney, so they can help you build a case.