Religion based illegal interview questions in US arise, when an employer makes religion oriented queries not related to the concerned job profile.
Under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOA) or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for the employer to make distinctions on religious considerations. In this perspective, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), religious practices include moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right or wrong including religious observances.
Employers must accommodate religious practices unless that would be extremely burdensome. When a candidate cannot attend a selection process due to religious practices, the employer is under an obligation to accommodate him so long it does not cause undue hardship.
Even for valid concerns such as work scheduling, which does not overlap with religious observances, the questions should be so worded to focus on the work alone. Otherwise the employer might be overstepping the limits set for him. The applicant cannot be called upon to share information on his religious beliefs or affiliation with the employer. Religion is a subject that should be avoided in workplace particularly in interviews or at most be treaded upon lightly.
The employer might desire to know of the religious practices to find out the week end work schedules. However, it is advisable to refrain from posing such questions directly concerning the applicant’s beliefs. Instead the employer may ask when he is able to work and then there will be no misunderstanding.
Job scheduling is important for the employer to meet work target and deadlines but still the employer should be careful not risk illegal questions that might hurt religious sentiments. The employer can simply check whether the candidate can work when he needs him to.
However, certain employers with a religious orientation like churches are entitled to ask questions on religious practices and beliefs under the “ministerial exemption”
Examples of improper questions on religion:
• Do you go to church?
• What religion do you practice?
• Which religious holidays do you observe?
• Are you religious?
• What is your religious affiliation?
• Do you belong to a club or social organization?
Example of proper questions on religion:
• What days are you available to work?
• Are you able to work with our job schedule?
• Are you a member of a professional or trade group that is relevant to our industry?
• Can you work on Saturdays/Sundays? (Only if relevant to the job.)