Is it illegal to ask an interviewee to consider working temporarily for free to get a foot in the door?

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Is it illegal to ask an interviewee to consider working temporarily for free to get a foot in the door?

After a month of interviews for part-time computer sales, the owner asked me to consider working for free for 1-3 months. Then he said there was no immediate job need but this was contrary to the listing on his site. I understand it is illegal to advertise a job falsely. Also, in the interview he asked me several discriminatory questions such as: how old are you; where are you from; do you have any family here; where does your wife work; what does she do; what is your wife’s degree; where is your wife from; does she have any family in town, etc. He said that he was trying to see if I’m going to leave soon.

Asked on April 30, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) An employer can't make you work for free, but he can ask you to do so; and if you agree to do so, then it is legal. There's nothing illegal about paying a salary as long as it is disclosed and agreed to up front.

2) While an employer should not falsely advertise, if something changed--e.g. a position was filled after the ad had been placed, or a position eliminated/downsized--there has been nothing illegal. Circumstances change.

3) However, many of the questions you ask are improper and could represent illegal employment discrimination (e.g the question about age). You could potentially have a discrimination claim, and may wish to contact the department of labor or speak with an employment attorney to see if you do and what it may be worth. Good luck.


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