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Legal Considerations

When conducting a faculty search, attention must be given to the federal, state, and local laws governing employment discrimination, and to the Northwestern University Policy on Discrimination and Harassment. The university prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of 16 protected classes:

  • age
  • ancestry
  • citizenship status
  • color
  • disability
  • ethnicity
  • gender identity or expression
  • genetic information
  • marital status
  • national origin
  • parental status
  • pregnancy
  • race
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • veteran status

The law in areas of equal opportunity, non-discrimination, and affirmative action is evolving and can be complex. The Northwestern University Office of General Counsel, Rebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark Street (tel: 847.491.5605), works closely with the Office of the Provost on these issues.

Basic Interview Guidelines

The following guidelines are based on federal, state, and local law and Northwestern University policy. As a general rule, ask only what you need to know (questions relating to the requirements of the job) and not what you would like to know (questions that do not pertain to the job and/or are personal in nature). Similarly, you should only include interview questions that you also ask the other candidates. 

Topic Questions NOT to ask
Permissible questions 
Age Age, birth date, date of graduation  Questions to a PhD candidate regarding expected completion of degree requirements 

Whether candidate is a U.S. citizen 

Place of birth of applicant or close relatives

Whether person is eligible to work in the U.S.

Any question about a candidate’s health, medical condition, or illness 

Any question that is for the purpose of eliciting information about a disability 

Questions about how candidate would perform the job 

Questions about whether candidate could perform teaching, research, and other related job functions with or without reasonable accommodation 

Marital and family status Questions about marital status, child care, children, pregnancy, or future plans with respect to these matters  May inform candidate that information regarding Northwestern family policies and services is available, referring candidate to appropriate campus resources (Office of the Provost, Office of Human Resources) 
Race and ethnicity Any question about candidate’s race, national origin, ethnicity, or (unless job-related) languages spoken  None
Religion Questions about religious affiliation  None
Sex, Gender Identity, Gender Expression Questions about maiden name or any question pertaining to only one sex None
Sexual Orientation Questions about sexuality None