Getting Hired: Your Rights

When an individual applies for a position with a company, he or she has rights which the potential employer must acknowledge. Because many companies go through a process before hiring employees (such as background checks and interviews), it's important that individuals know their rights concerning these processes. Below, you will find an overview of legal rights during the hiring process.

Background Checks

While companies are entitled to perform background checks on employees before hiring them, there are some limitations. Some companies include credit checks on individuals with the typical background check. When this happens, employers should notify those individuals and request their permission to perform a credit check. If a credit check is done without the individual's permission – in some places, it is a crime.

The Federal Bankruptcy act also makes it illegal for a potential employer to base the hiring decision on a bankruptcy in a person's past – along with the debts he or she had before filing bankruptcy. Many times, an employer must give a report of what a financial background check includes (without viewing it first) in order for the potential employee to dispute any false claims or address other negative information before the potential employer views it.

Along with credit checks during the hiring process, some companies or owners do criminal background checks. This encloses information about past arrests, convictions and jail time. In some states, it's illegal for a potential employer to base the hiring decision on arrests which never ended in conviction. However, those potential employers are able to restrict their hiring to individuals who have never been convicted of a crime.


Most potential employers conduct interviews with their potential ‘new hires' in order to get to know the individual and determine whether they are the right person for the job or not. While most employers will ask questions (even questions that are difficult to answer), there are certain topics which should not be broached because of discrimination laws. By asking certain questions, a potential employer may be asking for a discrimination lawsuit. Just a few of these questions are but not limited to:

  • Questions about the applicant's religious preference.
  • Questions about the applicant's sexual orientation.
  • Questions about the applicant's race.
  • Questions about the applicant's age unless the employer is asking if the individual is over the age of 18.
  • Questions about the applicant's marital status or whether or not the applicant has or plans to have children.

If a potential employer asks questions about these or other topics governed by discrimination laws, the applicant may have the right to pursue a discrimination case. This is especially true if the employer chose not to hire the applicant. An applicant being asked questions like this is in no way required to answer them.

Although laws vary according to state, most states protect individuals during the hiring process. Potential employers and applicants alike should learn about their state and local laws to ensure that they are being treated fairly. If you feel your rights may have been infringed upon, consult with an attorney to discuss your options.

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