Can a recruiter ask a candidate if he or she owns a car?

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In most cases, no. This question may be discriminatory. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) considers car ownership "financial information." While federal law does not prevent employers from asking candidates about financial information, the federal equal employment opportunity laws prohibit employers from illegally discriminating when using financial information to make employment decisions. The EEOC notes that an employer may not have a financial requirement if it does not help the employer to accurately identify responsible and reliable employees, and if, at the same time, the requirement significantly disadvantages people of a particular race, color, national origin, religion or sex. In addition, implying that there is a requirement to own a car may also adversely impact candidates with disabilities who may be unable to drive due to their impairment.  

Unless the use of a personal vehicle to travel between worksites or other locations is a primary job duty, the question of whether an individual owns a car is irrelevant and could result in claims of discrimination in the hiring decision.

A candidate's ability to be at work on time every day is certainly a job-related concern. But a question about car ownership doesn't really help an employer determine whether a candidate will have attendance issues. Whether candidates use public transportation, bike, carpool or drive to work has no bearing on how they will perform in the job. When you develop interview questions, phrase each question so that the answer will describe job-related qualities instead of personal qualities. If a question is not related to performance on the job, it should not be asked.

Below are sample questions that may help assess if an applicant has outside commitments or transportation issues that could negatively affect his or her attendance at work. Choose questions that best reflect your organization's hours of work and overtime and attendance policies. If you choose to ask any of these questions, ensure that you ask them of all candidates being interviewed for the position.

  • Do you have reliable transportation to and from work?
  • What would your previous supervisors tell me about your attendance and punctuality?
  • What shifts or days are you available to work?
  • Our second shift is from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday. Are you available to work this shift every weekday?
  • We do have a mandatory overtime policy. Required overtime could extend your workday to 10-hour days and/or could require working on Saturdays as needed. Are you available to work this type of overtime schedule?
  • Do you foresee any problems with working a third-shift schedule?
  • When overtime is required, will transportation be a problem?


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