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Knowing Your Rights and Reporting Options

Knowing your Rights and Reporting Options

Yale Law School’s Career Development Office (CDO) is committed to ensuring that YLS students receive fair and appropriate treatment from all employers using our career services, and that the law school, its students, and employers act in good faith in the recruiting and hiring process. During interviews, questions must focus on a student’s ability to perform the essential functions of the position to which they have applied.

Laws and Policies Around Recruiting

  • YLS Employer Recruiting Policies, including the Law School’s Nondiscrimination Policy which forbids discrimination based on age; handicap or disability; ethnic or national origin; race; color; religion; religious creed; sex and gender (including pregnancy discrimination and sexual harassment); marital, parental, or veteran status; sexual orientation; gender identity; and gender expression. (See Yale’s policy for exceptions relating to religious organizations and the military).
  • Yale University Sexual Misconduct Policies which apply to all members of the Yale community as well as to conduct by third parties (i.e., individuals who are not students, faculty, or staff, including but not limited to guests and consultants) directed toward University students, faculty, or staff members.
  • Yale University Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment which applies to students, faculty, and staff, as well as to conduct by third parties (i.e., individuals who are not students, faculty, or staff, including but not limited to guests and consultants) directed toward University students, faculty, or staff members while on campus or participating in Yale programs or activities.
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, and national origin.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 which prohibits employment discrimination against individuals aged 40-69.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act which protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination in the workplace.
  • NALP’s Principles for a Fair and Ethical Recruitment Process

Inappropriate Interview Topics

The following interview topics are likely illegal and/or violate YLS policy.

  • Are you a U.S. citizen? Which language is your native tongue? Where are your parents from?
    Interviewers may ask if you will be able, upon hire, to provide proof of authorization to work in the U.S. They may ask about language fluency if it is relevant to the position.
  • How old are you? What year did you graduate from high school?
  • What does your spouse/partner do for a living? Are you planning to have a family? When? Do you have children or child-care responsibilities? 
    Interviewers may ask about your ability to work the hours required of the job.
  • What is your religion? What religious holidays do you observe?
    Outside of religious organizations that qualify for religious exemptions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, interviewers should not ask questions about religion.
  • What is your gender? Do you wish to be addressed by Ms. or Mr.?
  • Do you have a disability? 
    Interviewers should not ask about an applicant’s disability status, medical conditions, past hospitalizations, past medical, psychiatric, or psychological treatment. If you volunteer that you have a disability, interviewers may ask if you will need a reasonable accommodation. Review CDO’s advice on Navigating the Job Search for YLS Students with Disabilities.

Approaches Available to Students During Interviews

You have options when faced with interview questions you find inappropriate. Your decision about how to respond may ultimately come down to your level of interest in the position, along with the larger context of the conversation.

  • Answer the question. You may decide to answer the question to move forward with the flow of the interview. You may believe the interviewer asked an unartful question to get to know you and decide to give them the benefit of the doubt. If you are comfortable answering, it is fine to do so.
  • Answer a different question. You could choose to provide a response that speaks to some aspect of the interviewer’s question but is relevant to the opportunity. For example, if the interviewer asks whether you have children (perhaps to gauge your availability to work the hours required for the position), you could respond by saying “I am committed to my career and will be available to meet the demands of the position if it is offered to me.” You could then go on to talk about a recent experience that required significant work and engagement and how you successfully managed your time.
  • Seek clarification. You can ask the interviewer to clarify the question so that you can understand how the inquiry relates to your candidacy for the position. This may allow them to rephrase the question in an appropriate manner. You could say, “Can you elaborate on your question, so I understand how best to respond?” or “I wasn’t expecting that question, can you clarify so I understand how it relates to the opportunity?”
  • Refuse to answer. You always have the option to say that you will not answer that question because it does not relate to your candidacy. You can ask for a different question or decide to end the interview.

Interview Questions about Speech and Political Activity

Employers have broad latitude to police employee speech under U.S. law. That said, if an employer responds to employee speech differently based on the class membership of the employee, or in a way that reflects a religious or racial stereotype, the employer’s actions may violate Title VII and/or YLS policy. In addition, some jurisdictions, including California, offer broader protections for employee applicant political speech and activity.

Under Title VII, employers generally may not:

  • Apply standards regarding off-duty political speech more stringently to employees or job applicants of a particular race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.
  • Single out employees or applicants for questioning about their political beliefs or activities based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.
  • Refuse to interview or hire applicants based on an assumption that they hold particular political beliefs due to their race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin, or single out employees for discipline based on such assumptions.
  • Refuse to interview or hire applicants of a particular race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin due to a belief—even if correct—that clients will refuse to work with such applicants. Nor may an employer refuse to assign employees to particular clients on such a basis.
  • Draw adverse inferences about an applicant’s future conduct based on their off-duty political speech where those inferences rely on stereotypes regarding people of a particular race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin.

In an interview, asking a student’s opinion about current events, including political topics, does not violate Title VII or YLS policies. If you are asked a political question in an interview and prefer not to respond, you should make efforts to redirect the conversation to the projects you worked on and skills you honed through the experience under discussion. If that fails, you could say “I am not comfortable discussing my political views but am excited to share with you more information about my experience with X organization”; or “That is a very complicated issue and given that we have only X minutes together, I would appreciate the opportunity to answer questions you have about my candidacy.” 

Reporting Options

If you have questions or wish to report an interaction with an interviewer or employer, there are multiple avenues of support available to you.

  • For general questions, concerns, or complaints regarding interviewer or employer conduct, connect with CDO’s Assistant Dean, Kelly Voight or another CDO Counselor who can provide guidance and advice on potential next steps, at all times guided by your goals and interests. Potential next steps may include simply debriefing about the situation and discussing your job search. With your consent, CDO can also contact the employer to discuss the issue and possible remediation steps. We encourage you to contact CDO even if you do not seek further action. CDO will hold these conversations in strict confidence. Because CDO counselors are Title IX mandatory reporters, we are obligated to report any incident of sexual misconduct to a Deputy Title IX Coordinator.
  • For questions, concerns, or complaints regarding sexual misconduct, contact a Deputy Title IX Coordinator for the Law School, Associate Dean Jennifer Cerny or Assistant Director Caitlin Dougherty. In addition, Yale’s Title IX Office provides an overview of reporting options, as well as guidance for initiating a report.
  • For questions, concerns, or complaints regarding equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion, and discrimination and harassment other than sexual misconduct, contact Associate Dean Jennifer Cerny in her capacity as Discrimination and Harassment Resource Coordinator (DHRC) for Yale Law School, or Diane Cornelius Charles, Director of the Office of Institutional Equity and Accessibility. These matters include, but are not limited to, discrimination based upon age, color, handicap or disability, ethnic or national origin, race, religion, religious creed, gender, marital, parental or veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.