May 1, 2024 | Peter Kinney

15 Things Your Boss Should Never Ask You

It’s Illegal For Your Boss To Ask You This

While some bosses like to think they can run their employees' lives, they're probably breaking a bunch of laws in the process. If you're boss asks to do any of the things on this list, you've got a case for workplace discrimination and unfair business practices.

15 Things Your Boss Should Never Ask You

1. Unnecessary Personal Information

It’s against the law for your boss to pry into your personal life. Any questions about your age, relationship status, and medical history are off-limits. If you're uncomfortable with any personal questions, you don’t have to answer. Instead, reach out to the human resources department.

Young angry woman looking at man in office.TZIDO SUN, Shutterstock

Unnecessary Personal Information (cont’d)

Your boss also shouldn’t be asking about your past run-ins with the law, any struggles with substance use, or even what you earn. And they definitely can’t expect you to spill the beans about your coworkers’ personal lives.

Woman denying something saying no with a finger gesture to an upset male.Antonio Guillem, Shutterstock

2. Unpaid Work

If you're not an unpaid intern, any work you do for your employer should definitely come with a paycheck. That means getting paid for everything from training sessions to mandatory meetings, and even those moments when you're at work just waiting to dive into your tasks.

A Man Holding Cash while Sitting at his Work DeskMART PRODUCTION, Pexels

Unpaid Work (cont’d)

Also keep in mind that you should never feel pressured to give up your rights for a job. If you ever find yourself being pushed to work overtime without pay or take on tasks without compensation, it's okay to speak up and say "no".

Woman with Closed Eyes at the LaptopKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

3. Discriminatory Inquiries

Many countries have laws that protect you when it comes to fair treatment in the workplace. In the United States, that law is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Upset Woman in office is holding a HELP sign.Yan Krukau, Pexels

Discriminatory Inquiries (cont’d)

Legally, employers can't discriminate against you based on things like age, race, color, religion, sexual orientation, or where you're from. It's also against the law for potential employers to ask you about any of these things during a job interview. 

Young woman is seating at desk in office and talking with a man.MART PRODUCTION, Pexels

4. Noncompliant Non-Compete Agreements

Noncompete agreements are contracts that restrict an employee's ability to work for a competitor for a designated period of time after they leave their former employer. Noncompliant non-compete contracts can severely hinder your ability to secure employment after you leave your current job.

Close-up of a Person Signing a DocumentRDNE Stock project, Pexels

Noncompliant Non-Compete Agreements (cont’d)

Certain places explicitly prohibit the use of noncompete agreements, while others impose limitations on the scope of these contracts. To protect your legal rights, make sure you carefully review the terms and conditions outlined in any contract before you sign on the dotted line. 

Unrecognizable Hand of Woman Sitting at Table and Reviewing DocumentsRon Lach, Pexels

5. Unnecessary Credit Checks

Employers are prohibited from asking for credit checks as part of the job application screening process unless it directly relates to the job requirements. Requesting credit checks without a valid reason violates fair employment regulations. 

Candidate having an InterviewTima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

Unnecessary Credit Checks (cont’d)

Before conducting any credit screenings, employers have to get your explicit consent. Furthermore, you are legally entitled to contest any discrepancies that may arise.

Man Reviewing Woman's documents at office.Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

6. Unsafe Work Conditions

It is a legal requirement for employers to make sure that all employees have a safe working environment. Unsafe conditions include anything from physical hazards to offensive behavior.

Man Wearing Helmet in a FactoryFatih Yurtman, Pexels

Unsafe Work Conditions (cont’d)

Your boss is responsible for making the workplace safe, and many places, there are laws that mandate specific training to ensure employee safety.  Employers are also responsible for promptly and effectively addressing situations that threaten the well-being of their employees.

People in MeetingTima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

7. Work For Less Than Minimum Wage

Employers are legally required to make sure that employees receive at least the minimum hourly wage. While the Federal minimum wage in the United States stands at $7.25 per hour, many states and cities have set higher minimum wage standards. Your boss also can't include commissions and tips as part of the minimum wage.

Holding Bank Payroll Check. Finance Cheque In HandsAndrey_Popov, Shutterstock

Work For Less Than Minimum Wage (cont’d)

If you find yourself being offered less than the minimum wage, you have the right to request fair payment. Additionally, you should avoid receiving payment in cash or off-the-books.

Woman giving moneyPanumas Yanuthai, Shutterstock

8. Work Off The Clock

It's against the law for your boss to schedule you for work outside of designated working hours. If they do ask you to perform any tasks outside your regular working hours, you have the option to refuse or negotiate compensation for the overtime.

Irritated businesswoman holding paper, refuses to sign document.fizkes, Shutterstock

Work Off The Clock (cont’d)

Also keep in mind that employees are not obligated to respond to work-related emails, calls, or texts after their scheduled work hours.

Man wearing shirt is looking upset while talking on the phone.Andrea Piacquadio, Pexels

9. Retaliate Against Whistleblowers 

Employees who report illegal activities in the workplace are protected by law from retaliation by their employers. That means your boss can't demote, terminate, or take disciplinary action against whistleblowers.

Upset woman is arguing with female doctor.KAMPUS, Shutterstock

Retaliate Against Whistleblowers (cont’d)

If your boss does punish your for reporting bad business practices, you've got a solid court case against them. So, even if have to leave the workplace in the end, you won't be leaving without some form of compensation. 

Angry boss is yelling on employee seating on his desk.fizkes, Shutterstock

10. Forbid Salary Discussions 

It's important to know that employers cannot restrict discussions between coworkers, especially when it comes to topics like salaries. Prohibiting discussions about salaries can be considered an unlawful tactic to discourage workers from organizing or forming unions.

People are having a conversation in hallwaycottonbro studio, Pexels

10. Forbid Salary Discussions (cont’d)

In many places, prohibiting salary discussions is one way for employers to get away with salary discrimination. Since that violates labor regulations and equality laws, your boss can't get away with trying to stop people from talking about their wages. 

Angry man in suit pointing at the cameraCraig Adderley, Pexels

11. Ask About Union Status

In many places, there are laws that protects employees' rights to form, join, or support labor organizations, like unions. That means your boss can't ask about your union membership status. 

Woman is seating in office meeting.Tima Miroshnichenko, Pexels

Ask About Union Status (cont’d)

Showing interest in employees' union affiliations could be seen as an attempt to discourage people from taking part in union-related activities. Even subtle inquiries or actions that might be seen as discouraging people from joining unions are against the law and should be reported. 

Man and Woman Looking at office report.RDNE Stock project, Pexels

12. Ask For Medical Information

Your boss can't request your medical information unless you provide written consent. In the United States, there are several federal and state laws that protect medical privacy, granting you the right to withhold that information unless you choose to disclose it.

Woman saying wait !shurkin_son, Shutterstock

Ask For Medical Information (Cont’d)

Medical privacy laws extend to pre-employment physicals. If a physical examination is not directly related to your job responsibilities, your boss is not allowed to request it.

Two man are talking in the office, job interview.fizkes, Shutterstock

13. Ask About Disabilities

If your boss asks about your disability status, they may be breaking the law. In the United States, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids employers from asking about an employee's disability status without a valid reason. 

Shocked female worker in modern workplaceAndrea Piacquadio, Pexels

Ask About Disabilities (cont’d)

Any unjustified questions about an employee's disability status without justification can be deemed discriminatory and illegal. Additionally, requesting information about employees' disabilities or mandating medical checkups violates laws against medical privacy and equal rights.

Two woman arguing in office.SHVETS production, Pexels

14. Ask About Your Social Media 

Your social media accounts are protected under privacy laws, so your boss can't request your social media passwords or expect access to your accounts.

Two business people thinking in the officeZeljko Matic, Shutterstock

Ask About Your Social Media (cont’d)

If an employer asks you to share your social media passwords or use your accounts for business purposes without your consent, you have the right to refuse. You can even report the incident as a bad business practice. 

Young couple arguing.Kindel Media, Pexels

15. Work Without Breaks

No matter what kind of work you do, you're entitled to breaks during your shift. Your boss also can't ask you to work through your breaktime. 

Two young girls are having a coffee brake at work.Alexander Suhorucov, Pexels

Work Without Breaks (cont’d)

Work breaks are legally recognized as part of your workday. So, if an employer fails to compensate employees for time spent on mandated breaks, it can be reported.

Boss screaming at employee in office.New Africa, Shutterstock



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