Questions You Are Legally Prohibited From Asking Freelancers


By law, employers aren’t allowed to ask certain questions on interviews. But is it wrong to ask your independent contractor or freelancer the same questions? Why do companies ask if you have kids or what your age is?

Your objective in an initial consultation or the first phone call you have with a freelancer or independent contractor should be to determine if the individual will be able to do the job required and if they’re a good “fit” with your organization. A friendly rapport isn’t necessarily required, but it certainly helps.

Protect yourself and your company from both legal repercussions and
needless embarrassment by according your independent contractors and
freelancers the same dignity and respect you would a potential employee.


Listed below are examples of five legal areas businesses need to be aware of regarding what you can and can not ask on an interview.

1) Citizenship / Languages

You can not ask if someone is a US citizen though you can ask if they’re authorized to work in the U.S.  As a writer, I’m often asked if I’m a native English speaker; technically on an interview this would be a no-no. It would be better to ask what languages they read, write, and/or speak fluently.

2) Religion / Holidays / Morality

This is very personal and religious discrimination is illegal. You can ask what days they are available to work. To find out if someone has similar ethics I like to ask if there are any projects or types of work they won’t do. Answers I’ve gotten are writing fake reviews and politically charged articles or “I won’t work for a company that directly supports abortion.”

Don’t ask about clubs or social organizations in order to determine political or religious affiliations. DO ask about trade and professional organization memberships your freelancer maintains.

3) Age / Health

Please DO ask about the experience of any freelancer whose skills you’re seeking, but please don’t ask age. (I was recently asked if I was “pushing 30”. Excuse me?) I was refreshed by this article How Old Should Your Social Media Manager Be?

It is never wise to make assumptions. Maturity and age are not equal correlations. Similarly do not ask how long one plans to work before they retire. You could ask about long-term career goals.

When it comes to health and physical abilities, you cannot ask if a candidate drinks or smokes. You can ask if they’ve been disciplined for violating company policies about drinking or tobacco use. You CAN ask “do you use illegal drugs?” Do not ask about height, weight, or how many sick days they’ve taken.

4) Family/Marital Status

Women are more often asked these questions and it reallllly bothers me. Occasionally I may reveal personal details of my life or situation, but to be asked “Do you have kids?” or “Do you plan to have kids?” is illegal on a job interview.

Nor can you ask, “Is this your maiden name?” or “If you become pregnant will you come back to work after maternity leave?” These questions are asked to infer the probability of interference to professional life from family life.

Wouldn’t it be easier to get right to the heart of the matter anyway? You can ask if the candidate is able to fulfill the hour / time obligations you require.

Remember the saying, “If you want something done right,
give it to a busy person. They don’t have time to do it twice.”

Feel free to ask if the independent contractor would occasionally be available for extra hours, to travel, or “in case of emergency, can I contact you?” Ask, “are you available to travel or work extra hours on short notice?”

If your company markets to or works with kids you could ask, “What’s your experience with kids in elementary school?” The freelancer or job candidate will choose how much to share whether it’s professional or personal family experience.

Curious about your freelancer’s parents? Don’t ask what they do for a living. Do ask how your contractor became interested in your industry or theirs. Don’t ask what their spouse does for work. Want to know if this is a full-time job for your freelancer? Ask that instead.

5) Gender

I know writers who write with a pen name because of gender stereotypes. So sad that people still feel the “need” to do so. Granted, by the time you’re interviewing job candidates or freelancers you probably know their gender. The reminder /caution here is not to stereotype. Some people assume women are better writers than men. Some people assume men are better public speakers than woman.

DO ask what the candidate can offer your company.
DO ask about previous experience.

For more information on what you can/can’t ask on an interview see this list by the University of Albany.

Read reasons to hire a copywriter to write your website content or How to Choose a Public Speaker. Watch Why Hire Terra L. Fletcher to Speak? and Why Fletcher Freelance?


Written by
Terra L. Fletcher
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