20 Things Your Boss Is Legally Forbidden to Ask of You

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By Jonathan Trent

The workplace can be scary enough as it is without awkward questions from your boss. Thankfully, you can often legally refuse to answer these questions, just like with the following 20 things your boss is legally forbidden to ask of you.

Your Social Media Activity

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It’s a well-known fear that your employer could see your public social media profiles and use them against you, but this isn’t actually true. While HRDailyAdvisor points out that there are legal ways to make such a request, your boss is still forbidden from demanding any information about your social media accounts.

Financial or Credit History

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Your boss should never ask you about your personal finances or debt troubles. When it comes to money, your boss should only speak to you about your wage and never anything about your personal finances. Doing otherwise is illegal, and if you encounter this, you should report your boss.

Family and Marital Status

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There are also strict rules regarding what your boss can ask you about family planning or your marital status. Questions about whether you have any children, whether you’re pregnant, or plan to have a family in the future are not permitted. Your boss also shouldn’t ask about personal childcare arrangements.

Your Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

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It’s up to your own discretion whether you would like to discuss your preferred pronouns, identity, or orientation with colleagues or your employer. However, it is not legally permitted for a boss to pry into your gender identity or demand you reveal any of your preferences or orientation.

Political Affiliation

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Your boss is not legally allowed to interrogate you about your political beliefs, affiliations, or any voting decisions you’ve made in the past. They shouldn’t ask you to disclose which political party you support or whether you’ve been involved in any activism because, frankly, this isn’t relevant to your job!

Age Discrimination

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You should never be asked about anything regarding your age, whether that relates to your present age or any questions about future plans (such as retirement). Your boss shouldn’t be asking you for your date of birth unless it’s not required, and asking any questions about age-related health issues is a big no-no.

Relationships in the Workplace

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Believe it or not, workplace relationships are not your boss’ problem. From an employer’s point of view, there is a certain stigma about dating in the workplace, which could lead to inappropriate questions. However, according to Forbes, 35% of people don’t report their workplace romance to their employer, which is 100% legal.

Personal Property and Belongings

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Unsurprisingly, a boss should never rifle through your personal belongings or demand a bag search, and they certainly shouldn’t ask you anything relating to your personal property. You should never face questions about what you keep in your bag or any personal items you have on your desk.

Pregnancy and Family Medical Leave

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Suppose you are pregnant when beginning employment with a new company. In that case, your boss should not ask any questions regarding your pregnancy plans, maternity leave plans, or pregnancy-related health issues. Some bosses might also make it difficult for employees to take maternity leave, which is also forbidden.

Discrimination and Harassment

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Your employer should never ask you about any history of discrimination. This includes asking if you’ve ever been harassed in the workplace or reported instances of discrimination in the workplace. They shouldn’t even ask whether you’ve ever filed a complaint against a previous employer!

Verification of Immigration Status

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If you are going for a job interview and you also have an immigration status, your prospective boss is not allowed to ask you anything about it. In fact, it’s illegal for them to ask to see any documents relating to this during the hiring process.

Race and Religion 

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There are many questions your boss should never ask you, including questions relating to your religious affiliations, your beliefs, or any groups you’re a part of. Any inappropriate questions regarding your race or even your age group are off the table. After all, what does this have to do with work?

Certain Medical or Disability Questions

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Your boss isn’t allowed to pry into your medical history, whether regarding prescription medication, injuries, or even your mental health history. Harvard Business Review points out that there may be benefits to discussing this with your boss, but it’s still your own decision, and you have no obligation to do so.

Military Service

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There are restrictions on what your boss can ask you regarding military service, too. Namely, your boss should never be probing into any military obligations or deployments you might have or have had in the past, and they shouldn’t be asking you for details about any military positions you’ve held.

Citizenship and National Origin

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When you’re being inducted for a new job or in new employment, your boss should never ask you about your country of origin if you’re from another country. This includes questions about your accent or citizenship decisions, even if these questions are framed as a casual conversation regarding your race.

Arrests and Criminal Record

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Certain jobs will need to know whether you have a criminal record and perform certain checks, but this doesn’t apply to every job. Your boss shouldn’t ask you questions about past criminal convictions, arrests, or even petty offenses unless it’s legally outlined in the job posting that this is a requirement.

Union Membership

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Your boss should never ask you about your involvement with unions or their activities. It’s actually illegal for them to inquire whether you’ve ever attended union meetings or been involved in strike action in previous employment. Otherwise, the whole purpose of unions would be defeated!

Physical Appearance and Dress Code

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Not only is your boss not allowed to ask you questions about your physical appearance or how you dress for work, but they’re also not allowed to put a discriminatory dress code in place. This has become a particularly hot topic recently in the LGTBQ+ communities, as The New York Times documents. 

Genetic Information

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If your boss ever asks you about your family’s medical history, including genetic information, it is illegal. They shouldn’t ask you about any health issues or history of diseases within your family or whether you have a genetic risk for certain diseases or conditions. You can tell them to mind their own business!

Privacy and Confidentiality

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Overall, it’s legally forbidden for your boss to breach the privacy and confidentiality of their employees. This means they should never ask you personal questions or ask for access to personal employee information without your consent. You have a right to keep certain information confidential, so if you expect foul play, you should report your boss.