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illegal interview questions and discrimination

Sathvathsan Sampath
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 03, 2000
Posts: 96
This shocking experience happened to my wife yesterday and the day before. She is into public relations and was interviewing with an IT company here at Bangalore for marketing commutations position. I don't want to name the company. All I can say is this company struck an alliance with one of the biggest US based IT company that is into everything you can imagine. That company acquired their personal computing/hardware division recently. They have operations worldwide, china being their primary headquarters. The interviewers (two men of Indian origin) fired questions like this midway during interview:

1) Are you married or single?
2) Do you have kids? If no, when do intend to have kids and what are your plans?
3) Will you have kids soon after joining us?
4) Will you be able to put in long hours of work regularly? He said, "I have a kid and a wife. I work the least here. I come into office by 9am and work till 11pm here regularly! Can you show such commitment?"
The interviewer commented they were equal opportunity employers. He wanted to make informed decision and that was why he was seeking answers to such questions! My wife was grilled with the same set of questions in both the round of interviews. However, they seemed very convinced with her abilities and believed she had what it takes to do the job well. However, she strongly feels her marital status and sex seemed to be thier biggest issue!

I view this totally discriminating and the questions to be illegal .
1) Has other women ranchers here at India or elsewhere in the world faced a similar situation? How did you deal with it?
2) If you are an employee, you can seek help with appropriate department within the company. What do you do when you are not on board and this happens during interview?
3) Can you ask the interviewer to ask such questions in writing and then approach his company's legal/ethics department? I don't think he would be willing though.

[ June 09, 2005: Message edited by: Sathvathsan Sampath ]

[ June 09, 2005: Message edited by: Sathvathsan Sampath ]
[ June 09, 2005: Message edited by: Sathvathsan Sampath ]

- Sathvathsan Sampath
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
I'm not in India but I'm a MAN and I get such questions...

So they're not discriminatory per se. I don't know if they're illegal, they might be.

I can fully understand why such questions are asked. They don't want to hire someone who will either leave the company in a few months or call for maternity leave and/or be bone tired all day from having to take care of the punters while at home.

Like it or not, companies want a 20 year old person with 2 university degrees, 10 years professional experience, and willing to work 20 hours a day for minimum wages.


42
Sathvathsan Sampath
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 03, 2000
Posts: 96
I forgot to mention that the interviewer had mentioned that he asks these questions to women candidates. Isn't that discriminating?
Victor Banerjee
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 30, 2005
Posts: 88
I concur with Sathvathsan Sampath. The questions are definitely discriminatory.

The Ideal world -
An equal opportunity employer means you are judged on your skills and are considered dedicated as long as you work your 8 hours a day.

The real world -
The more the number of hours you put in, the more dedicated you are considered.

In today's competetive world, agreed that 8 hours a day concept does not work. But all companies do have places for people who want to work just the basic 8 hours a day. These people are in no hurry and do not want to be on a fast track in the company.
Then there are people who work 18 hours a day and they want to reach the top from the day they join the company.

I feel a company needs both kinds of people. The fast trackers although more productive are also generally opportunists and more probably to leave the company for better opportunities.
Whereas your 8 hours a day people generally tend to stay longer and are efficient in what you do.

A company cannot be made of all people of the same kind.
Arjunkumar Shastry
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 28, 2005
Posts: 986
{
1) Are you married or single?
2) Do you have kids? If no, when do intend to have kids and what are your plans?
3) Will you have kids soon after joining us?
4) Will you be able to put in long hours of work regularly? He said, "I have a kid and a wife. I work the least here. I come into office by 9am and work till 11pm here regularly! Can you show such commitment?"
}
It seems this interviewer was too honest to ask direct questions.In Indian IT/any other industry questions 1 and 4 are quite common.The way of asking differs.For example,the above questions can be reframed as:
1) Do you stay with family here or alone or with friends?(You also the partial answer of 2 here).
4)Our work culture is enjoying but we somtimes put long hours to finish the work on schedule.We expect the same from you!(Who will say NO here ?)


Namma Suvarna Karnataka
fred rosenberger
lowercase baba
Bartender

Joined: Oct 02, 2003
Posts: 11351
    
  16

questions like those are DEFINATLY illegal in the U.S.A. period.

"will you be able to perform task A, B and C" is ok.
"do you have a physical disability" is not.

"Do you have a reliable way to get to work" is ok.
"Do you have a car?" is not.

"Do you have kids/are you married/will you be having kids" is NOT ok.
"Do you have any obligations that might prevent you from working the required hours" is fine.


There are only two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors
Manish Hatwalne
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 22, 2001
Posts: 2578

There's descrimination against single man/married man as well. My brother was asked if he was married, they were interested in hiring him only if he was single.

In one of the compnies I worked for, we'd always get jealous because women left by 7 PM and we had to work till 11 PM or more...bosses never dared asking them to stay late. Wished several times we were women in modern urban India where job is an option, and some took it equally casually. Unlike men, who were as insecure as helll when their appraisal rating got low...ultimately they had to be the bread earners...

- Manish
soniya saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2004
Posts: 300
Definitely illegal in US, but I guess not so in India.
Sania Marsh
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 12, 2004
Posts: 469
Originally posted by fred rosenberger:
questions like those are DEFINATLY illegal in the U.S.A. period.
...


I have been asked these questions in USA:

Do you have kids? - which I don't always mind.. Sometimes questions like these are introduction to tell that job requires lot of travel, and interviewer is just trying to warn of any impact.
If it is obvious that they are asking that because they want you to work overtime - look for another place.

I was often asked if I can invest long hours into projects, same 8:30 am - 8 pm or sometimes 9 am - 11 pm. If they are asking to work like that all the time, even if they pay overtime, the interview is over right then (not that I walk away, but I'm not taking job). Any wise manager would know that with such schedule people wear off within 2-3 months, noone would expect you to work like that for long time, so either they are not willing to keep you around, or there is something else fishy, or maybe the manager is just plain dumb.

Another thing, and that was pure discrimination that I was told, that as a woman I must be good with web GUI design, so they will take male candidates directly as developers and I would work on front-end for the startups.
And that is considering that I had 3 years development experience and masters in CS.

I was also once asked if I married my husband to get a Green Card.
How do you like that sort of questions?

I never get mad at such things, I just keep looking. Discrimination does exist in US and much more of it in other countries, I just step over it. It would take too much of my health to worry about it.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I can't speak about India.

In the US illegal questions include those about: marital status, sexual orientation, religion, and ethnicity. I would assume asking about children is the same.

Some links which may help

Advice from Monster.com about what to do in such a situaton.
Illegal questions from About.com.
Illegal questions from USA Today.

--Mark
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16095
    
  21

In Malaysia, some positions advertised required you to send a photo. That would trip all source of alarms in the US since you can use it to discriminate on age, race and gender.

Different countries, different laws.


Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
Sonny Gill
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 02, 2002
Posts: 1211

Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
In Malaysia, some positions advertised required you to send a photo. That would trip all source of alarms in the US since you can use it to discriminate on age, race and gender.

Different countries, different laws.


That is true. A lot of people have their photos on their resumes even if you dont ask for it. I guess they are just used to it.
Infact in Malaysia, the job ad's can be really blatant, saying only Malays are allowed to apply, or Chinese are preferred and so on

Just curious Tim..Have you lived/worked in Malaysia?


The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet. - William Gibson
Consultant @ Xebia. Sonny Gill Tweets
soniya saxena
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 18, 2004
Posts: 300
Well you missed a chance to sue those guys. You could be a millionaire by now

Originally posted by Sania Marsh:


I have been asked these questions in USA:

Do you have kids? - which I don't always mind.. Sometimes questions like these are introduction to tell that job requires lot of travel, and interviewer is just trying to warn of any impact.
If it is obvious that they are asking that because they want you to work overtime - look for another place.

I was often asked if I can invest long hours into projects, same 8:30 am - 8 pm or sometimes 9 am - 11 pm. If they are asking to work like that all the time, even if they pay overtime, the interview is over right then (not that I walk away, but I'm not taking job). Any wise manager would know that with such schedule people wear off within 2-3 months, noone would expect you to work like that for long time, so either they are not willing to keep you around, or there is something else fishy, or maybe the manager is just plain dumb.

Another thing, and that was pure discrimination that I was told, that as a woman I must be good with web GUI design, so they will take male candidates directly as developers and I would work on front-end for the startups.
And that is considering that I had 3 years development experience and masters in CS.

I was also once asked if I married my husband to get a Green Card.
How do you like that sort of questions?

I never get mad at such things, I just keep looking. Discrimination does exist in US and much more of it in other countries, I just step over it. It would take too much of my health to worry about it.
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Over here such questions are allowed only if they're discriminatory against white males...
You're allowed to say you prefer women or minorities (even stating which minorities) but not that you prefer whites or men.
They call it "positive discrimination", in the US "affirmative action" or "equal opportunities" (though I've no clue how preferring a black single mother over a married white father is providing people with equal opportunities).
Roger Chung-Wee
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 29, 2002
Posts: 1683
I was on holiday in Malaysia in 1991, and saw a sign in a shop window in Ipoh which said something like: "Female Chinese Assistant Required". My immediate thought was that this would be illegal where I live (in the UK).


SCJP 1.4, SCWCD 1.3, SCBCD 1.3
Arjunkumar Shastry
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 28, 2005
Posts: 986
Originally posted by Sonny Gill:

Infact in Malaysia, the job ad's can be really blatant, saying only Malays are allowed to apply

I think asking nationality for any job is legal in any country.Immigrants can run to their home country anytime if they create any problem .Then it will be difficult to take any action against them unless foreign ministiry of his/her country support fully.That might be reason they are asking only Malays can apply.

Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
I recall that an earlier post said that the Indian government had made a policy decision not to enforce the fair labor laws in the IT sector.

In the US, the laws are there but not enforced. For example, I am asked for the date of my irrelevant 1966 BS degree in physics as well as my 2004 MS in Computer Science. They had might as well ask my age.


Mike Gershman
SCJP 1.4, SCWCD in process
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I've never known it to be illegal to ask for the year of a college degree. Would those who make such a claim please reference the particular law? (e.g. a link to a Dept. of Labor page on it, or to a specific law we can look up)

--Mark
Axel Janssen
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 08, 2001
Posts: 2164
In western europe its a bit different.
You have to send a photo and it is very important.
It does not lead to discrimination against minorities, I think. There are people from lots of different origins working here in IT.
Up to now I haven't realized discrimination against me as being white man, like Jeroen reported for the Netherlands. Maybe I am just blind.
I imagine that your wife felt upset after the interview. Take the actions you might feel necesary to keep USA great country.
And I mean, there are idiots and there are even more idiotic organizations. And some organizations are better for working and others kind of suck. In the end they communicated your wife that they are full of fear and working in such an environment won't make her feel comfortable anyway.
[ June 11, 2005: Message edited by: Axel Janssen ]
peter wooster
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 13, 2004
Posts: 1033
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
I've never known it to be illegal to ask for the year of a college degree. Would those who make such a claim please reference the particular law? (e.g. a link to a Dept. of Labor page on it, or to a specific law we can look up)

--Mark


According to this USA Today article its not legal in the US to ask for the year of graduation. I also checked several university sites and they seem to agree. The only legitimate question is to ask if the applicant is of the legal age for employment, 18 years in most jurisdictions.

In Canada the same rules apply except where a mandatory retirement age is allowed, in those cases it's acceptable to ask if the person is below that age.
Homer Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
I've never known it to be illegal to ask for the year of a college degree.
I don't think it is either. But it's telling. This would be one of those nice questions one should file a complaint on on when not hired. Those issue would be is it consistently ask interviewees this question. If the hiring party asks it at quasi-random levels, it's age discrimination.

The ADEA does not specifically prohibit an employer from asking an applicant's age or date of birth. However, because such inquiries may deter older workers from applying for employment or may otherwise indicate possible intent to discriminate based on age, requests for age information will be closely scrutinized to make sure that the inquiry was made for a lawful purpose, rather than for a purpose prohibited by the ADEA.

I've been asked the question. I asked the interviewer why he want to know. He spoke with an Indian accent. This was for a job in the US. He had no justification. I did not get the job.
[ June 11, 2005: Message edited by: Homer Phillips ]
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by peter wooster:

According to this USA Today article its not legal in the US to ask for the year of graduation.


This is why I asked for a more authoritative source. I don't believe this is true. I also know that at some colleges I've called to verify a degree, they need a year in order to look it up (full name wasn't sufficent).

--Mark
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
Only for a very few jobs do they ask to send a photograph here Axel. Mainly those are jobs like flight attendant, photo model (doh), sometimes store staff of posh stores.

Discrimination against white people doesn't happen all that much (outside government circles), I was only saying that while you're not allowed to discriminate against minorities you are allowed to discriminate against whites.
For example the Rotterdam police department for years had a standing (and published) policy to hire ONLY non-white people. Even now whites are hired only if there aren't any other candidates, while a non-white will get the job even if (s)he doesn't meet the minimum published requirements.

My father once had to hire a new vet for his company.
The sole black candidate was rejected for not having the required education (degree in vetirenary medicine, the guy was a highschool dropout). The guy sued, claiming he'd been rejected based on the colour of his skin. This after several such cases (in very similar circumstances) had led to companies being fined millions in compensation. This time the judge agreed with the company.
Still there are now laws stating that every company is required to have a minimum of x% minorities and y% females as employees (never mind that it may be impossible to find them, like in my father's case where there simply aren't that many minorities living in the area they operate who have the education needed).
Axel Janssen
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 08, 2001
Posts: 2164
Jeroen, here you need foto for any job.

I haven't known that positive discrimination is such an big issue in the Netherlands .
The case of the Rotterdam police can be seen as positive from another perspective.
Quite sure that here they want to augment participation of people of non-EU-origin in the police also. They simply understand better certain milieus. Maybe dutch government just acts. More people from non-EU are effective for our service, so we augment quota rapidly. Movers and shakers.
In your neighbour country to the east they first set up comission of high-paid people who happily discuss things for years and years and years...
From time to time they produce a little complicated law, which noone understands and has no effect on real world.

Axel
[ June 12, 2005: Message edited by: Axel Janssen ]
Mike Gershman
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 13, 2004
Posts: 1272
Here is a good summary of the recent US Supreme Court "disparate impact" decision.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A12699-2005Mar30.html

With regard to Mark's questions about asking year of graduation, that practice is like basing insurance decisions on neighborhood (redlining). It is an indirect way of dicriminating where a direct question would be too obvious.

The question is asked insistently in the screening phase, long before degrees are verified.

I recently went on a set of interviews where both the headhunter and the hiring manager frankly told me they were criticized from above for interviewing a junior Java programmer who was not young enough. What was different was the frankness.
Homer Phillips
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 26, 2004
Posts: 311
If you're within say 5 years of graduation, I'd think it was relevant because you might still know how to solve partial non-linear differential equations or have some insight into DSP. But after so many years, it's just age discrimination.
Sonny Gill
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 02, 2002
Posts: 1211

Originally posted by Arjunkumar Shastry:

I think asking nationality for any job is legal in any country.Immigrants can run to their home country anytime if they create any problem .Then it will be difficult to take any action against them unless foreign ministiry of his/her country support fully.That might be reason they are asking only Malays can apply.



Arjun, Malays as in belonging to the Malay race (also referred to as Bumiputra in Malaysia), not Malaysian nationals.
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
No Axel, the official reason was to get a "fair" representation of minorities.
Nothing wrong with that, but it shouldn't need preferential treatment.
What happened was that they ended up hiring just about anyone who applied because they couldn't get enough qualified candidates.
The end result was a department with some 70+% minorities (in a city with a 10-15% minority population) most of whom had never had a background check done and lacked the required education for the jobs they were doing.
We now have to deal with the results which are an ineffective police force (nothing to do with race, everything with underskilled officers) with high percentages of corrupt and criminal cops (because people were hired without background checks who would never have been hired under the earlier rigorous regimen which would have caught them).

Had the situation been reversed and they'd proclaimed they didn't want any minorities in order to get a well ballanced police force in a city where the police was made up of a disproportionate number of minority officers there would have been massive protests and legal action against that department for being discriminatory...

Judge people on their skills and reliability, not on the colour of their skin or their heritage.
As it is "positive discrimination" isn't serving well educated, reliable, minority people at all because they're viewed with a lot of suspicion because of the many unqualified minorities who get things they shouldn't have gotten and are therefore making all minorities look bad.
Axel Janssen
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jan 08, 2001
Posts: 2164
Jeroen I agree with you that this is very exagerated politics.

If your neighbouring country to the east were creating such law, it would be like this (its worse):
- it would take 5 years with lots of people in talk shows discussing the issue.
- they would buy new computer system from Accenture for 200 billions of Euro, which won't work, because Accenture gets lots of money and specification which sucks.
- in the end they would come up with such complicated regulations nobody understands.
- 4 month after the new law is implemented, Spiegel-mag will tell us that the outcome is that in praxis less non-EU people find employment in police after that brilliant law, because the regulations are so complicated and contradictoraly. And that it creates lots of new costly burocracy as allways.

I would be happy living in a country where the outcomes of reforms are going in the same direction as the targets of the reform, even if the reform were a bad idea. Here is allways the other way round and that is getting really confusing.
Jeroen Wenting
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 5093
who is to say it's going to other way in Germany?
The goal of the Schroeder government is self-enrichment for politicians and increase of government control over daily life (no matter what they claim).
That's working quite well it seems
Biprajit Das
Greenhorn

Joined: Jun 14, 2005
Posts: 3
I don't know if you are talking abt Lenovo (IBM). I am not aware if IBM does such discrimination. I have seen mothers taking leave for six months and project manager asking them, "do you feel alright to join office or you want to extend your leave?".

I have seen discrimination in interviews especially from North Indians HR working in South Indian software companies. I have recently given an interview with a small product development company in Bangalore and I was so upset after attending the interview with the HR manager that I refused their offer only because I could not work in a company with cracked HRs.
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16095
    
  21

Originally posted by Sonny Gill:

Just curious Tim..Have you lived/worked in Malaysia?


No, but the AMD64 CPU cpu I just bought was built there.

Seriously, I got pretty desperate during the job drought. My old college prof comes from (and since retirement, frequently travels back) there, so just for giggles I started monitoring the local news and job adverts. Their salary structure seems schizophrenic from the ads I've seen. Some jobs pay like US, some like India.

The other place I considered was moving back to Panama, where I was born. Problem with 3d-world countries, however for me is never knowing how much/when/who to bribe.
Jan de Boer
Ranch Hand

Joined: Dec 10, 2010
Posts: 393
    
    1
Jeroen Wenting wrote:I'm not in India but I'm a MAN and I get such questions...


I guess that is because you live in the Netherlands, right? You have a Dutch name. Here it is more common that a father takes time for his children. I never got these questions in a job interview though. I do have these discussions with the CEO of this company. We had a discussion about work hours. We should be in from 9 a.m. in the morning. He said he cannot accept people are later because they have to bring the kids to school, then they should find another job. I told him, please understand that they will do that, because for most people their family and their children are far more important than their boss. It's far easier to find a new job, a new boss, then new children and a new wife. I might have looked at him with hate fire in my eyes. I probably did. He backed off by saying that if it is not a problem for a certain department, exceptions can be made. He should really understand that he might be important for the company but for my personal life he is nothing.
Joshua Mccartney
Greenhorn

Joined: Apr 25, 2012
Posts: 26
Is it real? they asked you those kind of question. They have no interest on you and your skills. They asking hard question so that you fail the interview.


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Luke Kolin
Ranch Hand

Joined: Sep 04, 2002
Posts: 336
Joshua Mccartney wrote:They asking hard question so that you fail the interview.


They don't need to ask hard questions for you to fail the interview. When hiring, "failure" is whatever the interviewer wants it to be.

Cheers!

Luke
 
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