Employers may ask about your race, but you don’t (usually) have to answer

People are inherently curious, so during an interview with someone who looks different than them, an employer may ask what race a person is. They may be looking to find common ground or just be interested in knowing because they’re just a curious person. They may also be asking because they intend to discriminate against you. 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommends that employers only ask about a worker’s race for lawful purposes, such as if they need to know for affirmative action purposes or because they need to comply with local or federal laws. 

Do you have to tell the employer your race?

You don’t have to say what your race is if you don’t want to. It may benefit you to state what your race is for affirmative action benefits, for example, but you also have the option not to disclose it. On most forms, you will have options such as:

  • White
  • Nonwhite
  • Hispanic
  • Non-Hispanic
  • Native American
  • Black
  • Other (Nondisclosed)

If there is no option not to disclose your race, then you may wish to write it in and submit the document. If providing this information makes you feel uncomfortable, you should ask your employer to disclose why they need to know your race and if it’s essential to your job. If it is not, you shouldn’t have to disclose it if you don’t want to.

An instance in which your employer asks you about your race is not necessarily against the law. There may be laws or regulations that your employer has to meet by obtaining that demographic information. However, if you feel your employer is discriminating against you by asking for such information, then our site has more information on what you can do next.

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