Q. In our experience, employees who take public transportation or rely on rides from others are more likely to be tardy to work than those who own their own vehicle. Therefore, before hiring an applicant for employment, we would like to make sure the applicant has a reliable method of transportation to work. Would it be appropriate to inquire, for example, whether the applicant owns a vehicle?
A. Maybe. Neither federal nor Illinois state or local law recognizes discrimination based on car ownership.
However, if the practice of requiring vehicle ownership affects one protected class over another, then you could be liable for unlawful employment discrimination based on the disparate-impact theory. Disparate impact is the idea that an employer practice, as a matter of statistics, has a greater effect on one protected group.
To be considered lawful, you must be able to prove that your practice is job-related and consistent with business necessity. It could be difficult to show that owning a vehicle is a business necessity.