Q. When, if ever, can our company legally ask an applicant about his or her religious affiliation? —R.M., Illinois
A. Title VII prohibits religious discrimination by employers with 15 or more workers. So you should generally avoid asking applicants any questions about their religious affiliation, which should be irrelevant to your employment decisions.
If you're concerned that a worker may not be available to work on a particular day or be able to comply with your company's dress code, ask those questions without asking about religious affiliation. After discussing the requirements of the job, ask whether the employee will be available to work on a particular day or whether he or she is willing to comply with the dress code. The answer to those questions yields the information you really need without asking the worker to disclose religious affiliation.
If the applicant reveals a religious reason for not being able to comply with these requirements, you may have to accommodate those limitations because federal law requires reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs.