So is this legal? Interviewing the wife of a candidate to determine if he will make a good employee?

A colleague of mine sent me this and it gave me shutters.
I'm not an atty but my thought is that this is illegal on some level.
Any lawyers, SPHRS, PHRs want to chime in...

I recently setup a 2nd interview with a gentlemen and made it mandatory that his spouse attend. Based on how little confidence she had in her husband, he did not make the cut.

I may do all 2nd interviews to include the spouse from now on because of how well it went.


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I don't know about the legality of it but if anyone thinks the spouse is not usually one of the top reasons a candidate does/does not take a job - THINK AGAIN! Further, I suspicion it's truer for wives in the background than it is for husbands in the background. I know this last theory is controversial and skatin' out onto the thin ice but hey! A little birdie called Experience is chirping away in my ear.
Sooo not legal. In fact, we cannot even ask their marital status until after we've offered employment, signed contract, etc.
OK I spoke to a few people with the actual qualifications to answer this question and here's the responses...

B) Jeff, Not hot water, this guy is in hot boiling oil. I'm worried for this person...
C) never interview a spouse as a means of qualifying a candidate in their ability to perform the job

So these were from three HR professionals one who is an HR Atty and the others were two certified PHR professionals.

So now you may be asking what here is the reasoning behind it. Sorry I was not able to articulate in my first post, I'm just a recruiter not an HR person...

Luckily I do have the resources to be able to get answers to such questions.

My hope is that this will benefit everyone in their hiring practices and that the content will be taken constructively, as that is the intent of the reply.

So Reason # 1
Candidate was interviewing for a position and you reference checked someone who could not accurately answer questions directly related to his work performance, Unless he worked directly with his wife at a previous position and he reported to her she would not be able to give a professional opinion on his ability to perform as a sales representative

Reason #2 it's against anti discrimination laws. As case could be made that because you interviewed a candidate and his wife for the position you would have to interview all spouses of all candidates regardless of position. In addition, as it is illegal to ask marital status during the interview process, how you came about the fact that the person was married could be subject to investigation.

Reason #3 sticking with the same theme of discriminatory hiring practices if you you hired a candidate was married over a candidate that was single the single candidate could have grounds for a discrimination case because they were not given the opportunity to have their spouse interview.

Reason #4 If their spouse was of a different race, religion, or the candidate, or they have kids now you have areas that open yourself up to discriminatory hiring practices.

Reason # 5 your argument that this is no different than a personal reference doesn't hold up as your hiring practices are not standardized across all candidates.Candidates must be evaluated on a level, fair and equitable set of standards. now you can set the standards as high as you want but you can't ask Candidate # 1 a list of questions and then ask candidate #2 a set of different questions and make a hiring decision based on those questions and this applies to your reference checking methods as well.
You must ask all candidate references the same questions. And since one candidate might be married and another unmarried that is impossible.

Reason # 6 There are certain items you absolutely can not ask a candidate. Sexual orientation, sex, age, religion, marital status, do they have kids, do they need medical insurance and a few other items. Now if a candidate offers the information freely during the interview process you can go ahead and make a mental not but you are still not supposed to use it as a criteria for hiring the person or not. Since you are making it mandatory that you interview the spouse prior to making a job offer you must have asked the
question, "Are you married?" somewhere in your hiring/screening process and that is discriminatory.

Now with all that being said there are acceptions and a case could be made when you have to say relocate a candidate and there are relocation fees involved. Ability of both the husband and the spouse to relocate or their ability/inability to financially be able to afford to sell their house then you can cross over into the grey area. But at that point you have made a job offer to a candidate and they are not under consideration any more they are points of contract/ employer-employee contract negotiations.
Wowzers! This is an incredibly well-informed and knowledgeable group. I'm impressed with the depth and seriousness of this discussion. Keep that going! For those (like yours truly) who cannot contribute with their insights and knowledge on specific topics such as this, it's still a great conversation to get a peek into and learn from. Kudos!
What do you expect in a world where a salary is enshrined and it is a sellers market (seller being the employer in this case). People go to professional resume' writers to "enhance" (bull) their resume's so to cut to the chase the employer is looking to "personal relationships" to indicate team players.
Everything in the future of business points to collaboration. Compromise and teamwork are in and tyranny is out.
If you haven't ever seen 9-5 make it a selection from netflix. It tells the story of the totally nutty office where a manager treats everyone like personal slaves and the slaves rebel. I once had a male friend tell me he hated the laws on sexual harassment. I was getting ready to listen to another diatribe on "what do women want" when he totally shocked me with what he said. He went on to say that intimidation did not have to have anything to do with sex and that he had been the victim of many bosses that asked him to go way beyond his job under the pressure that they had the power to get rid of him if he questioned their authority.
Now what you also need to understand is that their are coaches that work with people on how to interview. I am willing to bet that 50% of the people in the world today could benefit from mental health advice but I doubt that even 10% of them are getting any. The group I feel the most compassion for are the troops returning from active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. We who have not been there have no real way of comprehending the stress.
Women coming home that have been raped by fellow soldiers and fear saying anything if they need to keep their job in the service.
If we treat our family well we should naturally treat our fellow workers well. I think this will be a part of future interviews for many people but I certainly hope that somebody establishes some guidelines. Diversity is hard to manage.
I am willing to bet that 50% of the people in the world today could benefit from mental health advice but I doubt that even 10% of them are getting any.
Are you kidding me? Change those numbers to 100% and 1%. That would be a more accurate reflection of the real numbers who would benefit/those who are reaching out for help.
Your colleague is on a very slippery slope.
Well perhaps the downturn in the economy will help get some of them out of your company. The question then is how do we get them to understand that they must first improve themselves before blaming the employer for everything?

Maureen Sharib said:
I am willing to bet that 50% of the people in the world today could benefit from mental health advice but I doubt that even 10% of them are getting any.
Are you kidding me? Change those numbers to 100% and 1%. That would be a more accurate reflection of the real numbers who would benefit/those who are reaching out for help.

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