Getting Hired FAQ

Frequently asked questions on getting hired.

How should I handle a job interview when I have an obvious physical disability? Should I mention it?

If employers really are worried about your ability to do the job, you can alleviate those concerns by explaining how you would perform the duties that the position calls for. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws protect you from discrimination based on your disability, as long as you are qualified for the job (meaning you have the necessary credentials, experience, and so on) and you can perform its essential functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation. (To learn more about what the ADA entails, see Nolo's article on Disability Discrimination in the Workplace: An Overview of the ADA.) You aren't legally required to talk about your disability (although potential employers may ask how you would perform the job's functions), but it makes sense to do so when your disability is obvious. Otherwise, potential employers might assume that you can't do the job or that you would require pricey accommodations the company can't afford. For more information on the rights of applicants with disabilities, see Nolo's article Getting Hired With a Disability.

Can potential employers force me to take a drug test?

No -- that is, employers can't hold you down and draw your blood or refuse to let you leave until you pee in a cup -- but they can generally refuse to hire you if you won't take a drug test. Most states allow potential employers to test applicants as a condition of employment. (To find specific info about your state, see Nolo's State Laws on Drug Testing.) Employers must follow the rules set out by their state law; some states require employers to give applicants written notice that drug testing is a condition of the job, and some allow testing only once an applicant has a conditional job offer. For more information on applicant drug testing, see Nolo's article Drug Tests for Job Applicants.

What is an at-will employment agreement?

An at-will employment agreement is a contract agreeing that you can be fired at any time, for any reason. In every state but Montana (which requires employers to have good cause to fire employees who have completed their probation period), employees are in fact presumed to work at will. The written agreement gives employers some extra protection if a fired employee sues. For more information on at-will agreements, including when you should think twice about signing one, see Nolo's article Employment At Will: What Does It Mean?

If you're an employer looking to draft a policy, see Nolo's Employer's At-Will Policy.

What is an arbitration agreement -- and do I have to sign one to keep my job?

An arbitration agreement is a contract in which you agree to bring any legal claims you may have against your employer to arbitration, rather than filing a lawsuit in court. Unlike civil court, where matters are decided by judges and juries, an arbitration takes place before an arbitrator who is chosen by the parties. The parties often don't have access to as much information from the other side as they would in a lawsuit, and the arbitrator's decision can rarely be appealed. For these reasons, arbitration is generally seen as more favorable to employers, which is probably why many employers ask new employees to agree to the process up front. Most courts have found that an employer can refuse to hire employees who refuse to sign an arbitration agreement, as long as the agreement isn't blatantly one-sided in the employer's favor. For information on arbitration agreements and tips on negotiating with your employer for a fairer shake, see Nolo's article Signing an Arbitration Agreement With Your Employer.

Why do I need to bring a passport or birth certificate to my first day of work?

Employers are legally obligated to make sure that you are authorized to work in the United States. To do this, both you and the employer must complete USCIS Form I-9: Employment Eligibility Verification Form, and you must provide proof of your identity and work authorization. Your employer cannot specify which documents you must present; you can choose any available documents from the lists provided on the form. List A documents (such as a U.S. passport) provide evidence of both identity and authorization to work. List B documents (such as a driver’s license) prove identity, and List C documents (such as a U.S. birth certificate) prove work authorization. For information on the I-9 form -- and the variety of other documents you may be asked to sign as a new employee -- see Nolo's article First-Day Paperwork for New Employees: Understand What You're Signing.

Is there any harm in lying or fudging on my resume about my education?

Yes. First of all, some employers run background checks that include a look at academic credentials, so you might get caught during the application process. (To learn more, see Nolo's Background Checks FAQ.) But the real harm comes if you get the job. If your employer finds out you don't have a degree, you could get fired for lying on your resume. And, if your employer ever violates your legal rights and you sue, your lawsuit might be thrown out -- or your damages severely limited -- because of the falsification. The better strategy is to come clean about your college record: Give the dates you attended college on your resume and, if you're asked whether you have a degree, explain that you were a few credits short -- and let the employer decide what weight to give that information in the hiring process. For more information on why it's a bad idea to falsify your credentials, see Nolo's article Don't Lie on a Job Application.

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