Ask a job candidate about commuting

May 6, 2005

The strongest candidate for our billing supervisor position lives about 30 minutes away from our urban practice and relies on public transportation. I'm concerned that she may have trouble arriving on time, or that she might be reluctant to work late, because she'll miss her bus. Is it okay to ask the candidate about this during her job interview?

Q: The strongest candidate for our billing supervisor position lives about 30 minutes away from our urban practice and relies on public transportation. I'm concerned that she may have trouble arriving on time, or that she might be reluctant to work late, because she'll miss her bus. Is it okay to ask the candidate about this during her job interview?

A: Yes, you can ask whether she'll be able to arrive on time and, when necessary, stay late. The issue is a legitimate business concern unrelated to discrimination on the basis of sex, national origin, disability, or race. But it's not okay to ask a candidate whether she owns a car; the Equal Employment Opportunity Laws view that as discriminatory.