The NFL Combine just took place last week in everyone's sort-of favorite convention city, Indianapolis, Indiana. A jarring news story came out of the Combine wherein an official from an unidentified NFL team asked a prospect, LSU running bank Darrius Geice, "if he liked men" during the interview. Yes, according to the story as reported, an NFL team asked a potential employee if he was a homosexual in the job interview.
While that by itself is startling - that an major employer like an NFL team - can be so foolish as to ask a blatantly illegal interview question to a job candidate, the response that one hears on sports talk radio is equally surprising. Unbelievably, there are a fair amount of people out there who have no idea that this question potentially violates Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Title VII prohibits employment decisions by employers that discriminate against individuals on the basis of several protected classes: race, color, national origin, religion, or gender. Federal case law has expanded on these definitions to include sexual orientation, and specifically to protect people from discrimination on the basis of their LGBT status.
Best practice for employers: at no point during your interview process should you ever ask a job candidate any question which would cause them to reveal their preference as to any Title VII protected category. If an employer does ask such a question, then the employer opens the door to an allegation that a later adverse job action (refusal to hire, discipline, suspension, termination, etc.) was motivated by an animus against the employee's protected status. For example, once an employer has knowledge of an employee's sexual orientation, then a more credible allegation of discrimination could be made against that employer than if the employer had no idea of the employee's sexual orientation.
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