Employee Rights Attorney

Mission Viejo, California

Q: “On an application for a local teaching position, the back page included an unlined box instructing applicants to “state your educational philosophy in your own handwriting.”

“I suspect the employer is using graphology as a screening tool.

“Is this legal? I hate to think an otherwise excellent application might be affected because of the way my penmanship might be interpreted.”

A: “It is probably proper for an employer to ask a prospective employee for a handwriting sample.

“There might be a good reason for such a requirement. You are applying for a teaching position in which the clarity of handwriting could be important. For example, students might have difficulty reading your handwriting on the board or your comments on their papers.

“Even if handwriting is not particularly important in your job, an employer still may consider it relevant. It is generally accepted that various aspects of personalities are revealed through one’s handwriting, just as we evaluate others by the way they dress, groom themselves, or how they speak.

“However, if an employer can determine your ethnic background, sex, religion, age or medical condition through a handwriting analysis and deny you a job for those reasons, it would be illegal.

“This would be comparable to psychological questionnaires for employment candidates that delve into illegal areas and can result in discriminatory hiring practices.

“Thus, your prospective employer probably is within its rights to request a handwriting sample. But the employer also opens itself up to possible claims of impropriety.”