Illegal Interview Questions for Veterans
by Shareem Kilkenny, CPRW/CC
Veteran Career Counseling Services
Unfortunately, all too often hiring managers or human resources professionals who are skeptical about hiring veterans will fish for derogatory health information in order to justify not bringing veterans on board. Not all do so intentionally; some are simply untrained or unaware of which questions are inappropriate - or frankly illegal - to ask veterans. In these instances you may be put in the uncomfortable position of trying to decide whether or not to answer them.
What type of military discharge did you receive? This is one of the main illegal questions ask. But the bottom line is that employers are not supposed to ask you this question or ask to see your discharge papers unless they can prove they have “a bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ) according the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Examples of BFOQ are state job veteran preference, or security clearance. Federal contractors can inquire about your discharge status, but only when the question pertains to veterans preference or disabled worker hiring requirements.
A lot of times what the interviewer is really trying to figure out is if you have a physical or mental disability that they may want to use against you. Along the same lines watch for questions such as: Are you suffering from PTSD? Did you receive any traumatic brain injuries? Did you receive any serious injuries while deployed? Questions along these lines should raise red flags.
If asked during an interview, you can chose ask the interviewer how they intend to use the information, and cite your right to protect that information based on USERRA. If they cannot demonstrate that they have a bona fide occupational qualification and you sense that your answer may hurt your chances of getting the job, you should politely decline.