5 Interview Questions That Are Illegal to Ask

5 Interview Questions That Are Illegal to Ask

This post was originally featured on The Nanny Doctor’s blog, August 20, 2013. It is a guest post by Lisa Pierson Weinberger, Esq.

There are few people more important in a parent’s life than the person they hire to care for their child when the parents must be away from home.  As a result, when interviewing nannies parents are tempted to ask as many questions as possible in an effort to find out everything about the candidates who they are considering for this crucial role.  But, under the law*, there are some questions that parents should refrain from asking.  Below you will find the five questions that parents are most surprised to learn they should take off their interview list:

  • “Are you a U.S. citizen?” It is illegal to make a hiring decision based upon an applicant’s national origin.  However, it is perfectly acceptable (and, in fact, required) to inquire as to whether someone is authorized to work in the United States.
  • “How old are you?”  Labor and employment laws protect older workers (defined as those over the age of 40) from discrimination.  If you are concerned that a seemingly older nanny may not be able to physically keep up with your child, or will want to retire in a few years, you can instead ask those questions directly.
  • “Are you planning to have children soon?”  Of course every parent wants to know whether a nanny is going to start her own family and leave her job in the near future.  Unfortunately, discriminating on the basis of pregnancy is not allowed.  Instead, you can ask an applicant what her career goals are, or how long of a placement she is hoping to find.
  • “Do you have any medical problems or disabilities?” Privacy laws protect applicants and employees from having to disclose personal medical information.  That said, it is entirely appropriate to explain the necessary job responsibilities and ask a potential nanny if there is any reason why he or she wouldn’t be able to perform the responsibilities required of the position at all times.
  • “Have you ever been arrested?”  Due to our country’s presumption of innocence until proven guilty, employers are not allowed to make an adverse employment decision based on an arrest alone.  Rather, employers can only use information regarding actual convictions when determining whether a potential employee should be passed over during the application and interview process.

*The laws are different under state and federal law.  Under most of the federal laws, an employer is subject to these restrictions if it employs 15 or more employees.  The number varies among the different states, but in California, for example, these obligations are triggered if an employer has at least 5 employees.  Certain questions, such as the arrest question listed above, cannot be asked of any potential employee regardless of the number of employees.  So, families are encouraged to consult with local counsel to determine which of these restrictions applies to their particular situation.


If you have additional questions, or would like to schedule a call with Dr Lindsay Heller, you can contact her here! Lindsay provides families with step by step guidance through the entire nanny hiring process. From the initial consultation, through navigating the intense search, and finally to hiring, Lindsay stands firmly beside her clients to offer invaluable expertise. She also offers an extremely valuable service in that she helps families who already have nannies solve issues and concerns that may be causing tension in the home. As an outside objective third party, Lindsay is able to assess the situation from all angles and provide a specific solution to the needs of the families seeking her help. While The Nanny Doctor is not a nanny agency, she collaborates with agencies all over the world.

The Law Office of Lisa Pierson Weinberger is a boutique employment law practice, dedicated to the needs of families, individuals and small businesses. Lisa takes a personal and practical approach to every matter, working to protect and reassure clients through many stages of their lives and businesses. The practice is exclusively employment law and purely transactional.