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In this case, the US-based company has a higher-than-average number of employees who are members of strict religious sect. In researching their company, a reviewer mentioned something like they asked how a candidate felt about working for a religious company, which it may or may not be. Maybe they simply respect the religious holidays of all of their employees.

I don't know if they do ask this type of question or not. My question is if this line of questioning is even legal and/or how appropriate it is. Specifically, I'm asking from the perspective of the employer asking the candidate, not the candidate asking the employer.

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    I believe it is against the law to ask about YOUR religion, but asking if you are willing to work at a company that puts restrictions on their employees is ok. – JasonJ Jun 22 '17 at 20:55
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    @Kilisi IANAL, but I suspect, if not selected, the candidate can make a legal case. It's different to ask if the candidate would be happy to work at that place in that environment, of course, as this is the candidates professional perspective/decision. – Captain Emacs Jun 22 '17 at 21:20
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    @Kilisi In the USA it quantifies as possible discrimination if they don't offer a job to the person in which case the person can likely prosecute them for religious discrimination. Other countries are totally different, but that is how the USA structure is setup. – mutt Jun 22 '17 at 21:23
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    EEOC only applies discrimination for companies with 15 or more employees. If this is a very small company, EEOC discrimination laws with respect to religion and other factors may not apply. Just something to keep in mind, not all US businesses are bound by EEOC laws. – Ron Beyer Jun 22 '17 at 21:27
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    As an alternative to asking about religion, tell the applicant about any unusual company policies and customs. For example, the candidate would be affected if everyone shifts their working hours earlier on Fridays in winter, to get home by sunset. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 22 '17 at 22:54
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You can ask all you want, the company is required by law to not discriminate based on religion in which case they will likely not be able to provide you a completely candid response. I would phrase the question more like, in your culture and respecting various religions to avoid discrimination do you make any special accommodations or is it just like use your vacation time for any religious holidays you want personally?

That is basically the same thing, but puts it in a light that communicates you trust the company is not discriminatory, but want to know if they accommodate a specific religion or not. You can also ask for examples if it helps to figure it out.

There are some that just talk anyway, but that would put them in line for a possible lawsuit. With freedom of speech in the US as an individual your beliefs are protected so long as they don't cross into bounds where things are regulated (like discrimination in the workplace, verbal assault, etc...).

If the Company asks you: Please reference the laws regarding this here: https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/coverage_private.cfm After that pay close attention to what they are asking, but know that you don't have to answer anything religious in nature if you don't want to. They should be volunteering information and not quizzing you on religion. If it appears like the second ask them specifically about why this is pertinent to the job and get a detailed and satisfactory answer from them. Even if they don't discriminate and make it a legal issue, if everyone is in the same religion and you aren't it might make it very undesirable to work there.

  • No, you don't ask these things, it is illegal to do so. – user42272 Jun 23 '17 at 0:56
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    @djechlin - It's not illegal to ask the question. It's illegal for them to make a decision based on a protected class, thus most sensible companies avoid asking altogether. – BSMP Jun 23 '17 at 3:22
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    @mutt You've misunderstood my question. I'm not asking about me asking the company. I'm asking about the company asking me. – user70848 Jun 23 '17 at 14:16
  • @user70848 Oh, ok, I'll edit my answer for that...thanks – mutt Jun 23 '17 at 15:26
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    @djechlin it's not exactly a "smoking gun", in that asking a question alone doesn't prove you were being discriminatory. A company can ask the question, and if they have a valid alternative reason for not hiring you, they aren't being discriminatory. However, you would still need to argue that to a court if someone decides to sue you, so most companies avoid talking about religion altogether. Basically asking the question opens the possibility for someone to try and sue you, but doesn't necessarily mean they would win.. – Zephyr Jun 23 '17 at 16:20
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The legality of the question depends somewhat on the mission of the organization (and of course the country). In the US, a church is allowed to hire only adherents of their religion, so the question is valid. An organization like Regent University is part of an overall ministry and has a mission of providing Christian Education and they too are allowed to make being an evangelical Christian a job requirement (I live in the same city as Regent University and know many people who have worked there.) A Christian Bookstore might have the same exemption. Where it gets dicey is when the organization's mission is secular (Hobby Lobby comes to mind.) In theory, organizations like this should not be allowed to discriminate in hiring or in serving customers. However in recent years, these companies have been pushing the limits on this and wanting to go to court to get the exemption removed.

In the end, even when the questions are illegal, you have to decide how to answer them. Or whether those questions are a deal breaker.

My personal beliefs would require me to exit an interview immediately if such a question were asked because I would not work for an organization that found such behavior morally acceptable. Another person's beliefs might lead them to answer if the answer was the one they wanted and only be upset if they were in a group that might be discriminated against but recognize that the question made them uncomfortable. A third person might be very happy to find a organization that agrees with their values. Another person might lie to get the job and yet another person might simply answer the he was a Muslim or an atheist or what ever the truth was and not care if it wasn't the answer they were looking for.

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