Small Businesses | Keeping Hiring Practices Legal

Steve O'ConnorBusiness Operations, Employee Management, Small Business TrendsLeave a Comment

As your small business gains traction in this economy, you may find that it’s time to add employees. We wrote in February about ways you can find and attract the right employees for your business, which is a critical first step toward expanding your headcount.

But whether your small business is growing from one or two employees, or from 50 to 55 employees, you’re likely to have questions about how to maintain a legal hiring process that protects both you and your business. Finding and selecting new employees can all present legal challenges. In general, according to Nolo, a legal encyclopedia, you must:

  • Avoid illegal discrimination
  • Respect privacy rights
  • Avoid making promises that can’t be kept
  • Follow immigrant hiring laws
  • Abide by laws for hiring young employees

Appropriate Interview Questions Gauge Your Candidate’s Ability to Work for Your Small Business

Interviewing candidates is a crucial aspect of finding the right employee for your business. The ebb and flow of a conversation allow you to gauge the candidate’s knowledge, ability to think on her feet, and general “fit” for your organization. As the conversation ebbs and flows, however, interviewers must avoid questions that look for information about age; marital status, pregnancy, and family; race; sex or gender; and religion. These represent “protected statuses” and are not appropriate to an interview because, with very few exceptions, hiring decisions may not be based on answers to these questions.

It can be simple for conversations to head toward these questions as conversational ice breakers—“Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” These ice-breaker questions are off-limits in an interview situation.

Instead, careful interviewers focus their questions on topics that allow you to determine the potential employee’s ability to perform the work you require; but it’s once again important to tread carefully here. Bearing in mind the Americans with Disabilities Act, it’s fair to ask whether a candidate needs reasonable accommodations to perform the work, but it is not fair to ask whether your candidate has any disability that would affect his or her performance.

Hiring websites such as and have compiled lists of interview questions that you can use as a safe starting point for asking the types of questions that will help you uncover your ideal employee and help keep your hiring processes legal.

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