September 3, 2023

Employer Red Flags: Signs of a Bad Work Environment

Category: Uncategorized

Author: Matthew T. Hurm, Esq.

Ohio is chocked full of good employers that care for and take care of their employees. That said, there are always a few bad apples that spoil the bunch. And Ohio employers are no different. These questions are not necessarily illegal, but they are a red flag that your employer might have a toxic culture or unlawfully discriminates against certain people.

Asking Your Age

This question comes in many forms. Frequently the employer will request your date of birth. Sometimes, the employer will be less subtle and simply ask your age. Many companies believe they need young and hungry employees, but there are two problems with this: It undervalues experience and it creates an environment where unlawful age discrimination could become rampant. If this is asked in the application process or interview, count it as a red flag.

Inquiries About Your Ethnicity

There is no good reason an employer needs to know your ethnicity at all and this is a huge red flag. Not only does it mean that ethnicity appears to be very important to this employer, raising concern for unlawful racial discrimination, but it also makes clear that the company’s human resources department is incompetent. An incompetent human resources department can cause all kinds of major problems down the road and should be avoided at all costs. One important note is that this should not be confused with an EEO form. These are clearly marked and clearly state that this information will not be used to determine the merits of your candidacy. This is fine. Direct questions about your race or ethnicity, even innocent-sounding questions, should be a show-stopper.

Questions About Family Planning

This can come up in a variety of ways, but should be avoided at all costs. If your employer ever asks whether you plan to have a family and when you plan to do so, do not answer the question. Many employers hate paying maternity and paternity leave and this innocent-sounding question could be used to help them avoid hiring soon-to-be parents. It is unlawful to discriminate against someone who is pregnant or could become pregnant. That protection does not necessarily extend to the father of said family. It’s simply a bad idea to share your family planning with your employer and an employer that asks that question should be avoided.

Asking About Sexual Orientation

There is no reason an employer should need to know about an applicant’s sexual orientation. This question shows both that the employer does not value their employee’s privacy, but also that it clearly cares about their own employee’s sexual orientation, and frequently that indicates a homophobic, or hostile work environment for individuals that at not heterosexual. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (for the moment) is unlawful. No matter your actual sexual orientation, it should not be OK for your employer to ask such a prying question and strongly indicates that this is an employer you want nothing to do with.

Inquiring About Your Religion

It is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their religion. There is no valid reason an employer needs to know what religion you follow before they make their decision on whether to hire you. Certain religions have different Sabbaths or religious requirements during the day, but they can all be easily handled after the hiring decision is made. Asking this question during an interview means that the employer cares about this issue which opens the door to illegal behavior. These kinds of employers should be avoided at all costs.

Questions Indicating the Employer Is Not Friendly to Workers’ Compensation Claims

One final red flag is if the employer indicates that it is not friendly to workers’ compensation claims. Every Ohio resident has the right to file a workers’ compensation claim if they are injured at work and any Ohio employer that attempts to avoid its obligations is acting unlawfully and their actions will unquestionably harm the injured worker. Some will offer a continued paycheck or a lump sum to not file a claim. This will cost each injured worker thousands and possibly tens of thousands of dollars and is irresponsible. Protect yourself and avoid these employers.

Employers are entitled to ask all kinds of questions, but they should be limited to determining whether you can perform the job. Any employer that asks questions like the ones above or whether you have a disability, whether you rent or own a home, or whether you have any genetic issues, all should be avoided. None of these questions relate to your ability to perform your job and instead are only intended to secure unnecessary information that could be used for illegal purposes and frankly indicate that the employer is probably not complying with federal law.

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