The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.


Title VII: Pregnancy Discrimination in Job Interviews

February 2, 2007

Dear Ms. :

This is in response to your January 31, 2007 correspondence requesting guidance on the following three questions:

  1. Is it illegal under federal law to ask a woman during a job interview if and when she plans to become pregnant in the future? Is it illegal under federal law for an employer to ask a man during a job interview if and when he and his partner plan to have children in the future?
  1. Is it illegal under federal law to ask a job candidate during a job interview if they are married or single?
  1. Is it illegal under federal law to ask a job candidate during a job interview if they have children?

As you are aware, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces, among other laws, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII), which bars discrimination in employment on the bases of race, color, sex, national origin, and religion. Title VII was amended in 1978 to include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits an employer from refusing to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition.

There is no language in Title VII which expressly prohibits employers from making any of the above inquiries. Title VII does, however, prohibit covered employers from basing hiring decisions on pregnancy or sex. Thus, an employer may not refuse to hire a woman because she is or expects to become pregnant. In addition, although Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on marital or parental status, its does prohibit employers from treating men and women differently with regard to such status. Accordingly, employers may not refuse to hire married women or women with children if it hires married men or men with children.

Although asking applicants about pregnancy or their marital or parental status does not violate Title VII, a fact finder is likely to presume that the answers to such questions formed the basis for a selection decision. As a result, if the selection decision is challenged, the fact that the employer made such inquiries will be evidence that the employer unlawfully used sex or pregnancy as a factor in the selection decision.

Please note that this letter does not constitute an opinion or interpretation of the EEOC within the meaning of section 713(b) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-12(b).

Sincerely,
-s-
Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel


This page was last modified on May 2, 2007.

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