December 3, 2013

Job Hunting? Know Your Rights

wooden gavel and books on wooden tableRunning around Manhattan going from one job interview to another, Charlie was left red faced having to explain why there were gaps between employment in his resume.

“It’s not easy trying to find a job in this city you know!” is what Charlie wanted to say.

Scrambling for a more appropriate response, Charlie said, “I unfortunately have gaps in my employment due to the current economic climate; but I used that time not only to job hunt but also to advance my skills and abilities making me more employable to future employers.”

When job hunting, it seems as if employers have all the power. So, it’s imperative that you know your rights as a job seeker. In various cities around the U.S, laws have been enacted all designed to protect unemployed job-seekers from discrimination by employers.

Here are some to keep in mind when job-hunting:

1. Age, race, color, gender, disability, marital status, partnership status, sexual orientation, citizenship status and national origin are all matters that employers are prohibited from pursuing both prior to and during the interview stage.

2. In 2011, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) was enacted preventing employers from directly inquiring into an applicant’s current employment status. Employers are no longer allowed to ask questions that could be interpreted as an attempt to decipher whether an applicant is unemployed.

3. It is illegal in some cities and states in the U.S., including Minnesota, for employers to inquire into a candidate’s criminal history in the application stage of the job process.

4. Employers in New York are also prohibited from asking an unemployed applicant to discuss the circumstances surrounding the person leaving his/her previous job.

5. Employers are also prevented from discussing an applicant’s lack of recent experience in the city of New York.

Jonathan Lake, a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, advises all job seekers to, “Find out exactly what your rights are relating to the city or state in which the job is located.”

It can feel uncomfortable rejecting a question that you are asked by an employer, but “as a job seeker, you have many rights and are not simply obligated to answer any question an employer asks you. The Society for Human Resource Management is great source of advice and offers useful information on unemployment human rights laws.” Jonathan adds.

While job seekers have every right to decline answering certain questions, it could be beneficial to answer them in a both positive and polite manner, demonstrating your passion and determination. For example, if you are faced with the question, “Why did you leave your last job?”

Answer with:

“I strive when faced with new challenges and I believe your company is better suited for my strengths as a professional in this industry.” That way you transform a negative aspect of your resume to appear as a positive one.

Just remember that while you may be unemployed, you are not without rights. It’s highly recommended that you get to know what those are very well prior to arriving at any interview.

Good Luck

Read more in Job Search Advice

Tamar Mendelsohn, writer for, is the current Editor of the Apploi Observer. The Apploi Observer provides expert insights and advice to job-seekers in conjunction with the revolutionary hiring app Apploi. Tamar has worked for many prestigious media organizations including Conde Nast, Hearst and the Associated Press, writing and editing in the United Kingdom, USA and the Middle East. Connect with Tamar @apploi @apploiobserver