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van Meerveld Weighs in on Job Interview Question Do's and Don'ts

3/11/2015

Adams and Reese Partner and labor and employment attorney Janis van Meerveld was interviewed by Nola.com and The Times-Picayune in an article, “7 Questions You Should Never Hear During a Job Interview.” The article discusses that while most people are aware federal laws exist to prevent employers from discriminating against a person’s sex, race and religion, there are still questions that are off limits during a job interview.

For example, van Meerveld answered the question to “Do you have a disability?” The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in hiring decisions. Under the law, employers are expected “reasonably accommodate” known physical or mental disabilities. Employers want to know if an applicant can perform basic tasks on the job, but questions should not veer to a person’s medical history or a visible disability, said van Meerveld. If the job involves lifting 50-pound sacks of flour for eight hours every day, van Meerveld said employers need to ask applicants if they can handle that task, not, for example, whether they have back problems. “You can flesh out that information in a lawful way,” she said.

van Meerveld also commented on, “Are You a U.S. Citizen?” Employers can ask whether you are legally able to work in this country, but a person’s nationality should not be part of the interview process, van Meerveld said. “Some employers will say ‘You don’t sound like you’re from here. Where are you from?’” van Meerveld said. “You can’t do that.”

van Meerveld represents management interests in a rising tide of employment litigation. She has significant experience defending suits involving false claims, including qui tam and other federal and state whistleblower actions. She also represents various corporate entities, especially homeowner and condo associations and their board members in Directors and Officers claims. She frequently assists in the development of employee policies, procedures and handbooks. She speaks regularly on litigation avoidance and conducts client training on many employment related matters for managers and other employees. She also advises clients on hiring, discipline, and termination policies and practices.