Workers Compensation Claims Can You Ask About Them During an Interview

Fall 2006 Liability Lifeline

Dentists are not always sure what can be asked during an employment interview. Questions about ethnicity, marital status, national origin, family planning, disabilities, and sexual, religious, and political preferences are strictly taboo. But what about asking whether an applicant has ever filed a workers’ compensation claim?

Workers’ compensation is a social insurance program that provides medical care, cash benefits and rehabilitation services to workers who are disabled from job-related accidents or disease. All states have workers’ compensation laws that require most employers to provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees who have a job-related injury or occupational disease. When injured while on the job, employees have a legal right to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Employers can ask job applicants about previous workers’ compensation claims. However, employers may not base their hiring decision on the answer. In most states, it is discrimination to not hire the applicant based on the fact that he or she filed a claim in the past. Base decisions to hire a candidate on skill level and ability to perform the requirements of the job. A thorough reference check and job history should provide insight into the candidate’s work ethic and job performance and help determine whether you want to extend an offer.

TDIC does not recommend asking applicants this question. Consider an applicant who answers “yes” to the question about previous claims, but is not hired because another applicant was more qualified. This applicant may allege discrimination based on answering “yes,” and force the dentist to spend countless hours defending his or her hiring decision. Rather than risk facing discrimination allegations or lawsuits, don’t ask about previous claims. For further information about your state’s workers’ compensation requirements, visit the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs.