Marital Status Discrimination

Marital Status Discrimination

Marital status discrimination refers to any unequal treatment of employees based on their marital status. Both state and federal laws offer protection against such treatment. Many states do not allow discrimination based on a job candidate’s marital status as well, including whether they are divorced, single, married, separated or widowed. Read below for more information on marital status discrimination laws and the protections these laws offer.

What Is Marital Status Discrimination?

This type of discrimination can cover a range of unlawful actions by an employer, including failing to hire job applicants based on their marital status, offering benefits based on whether an employee is married or single, or creating workplace favoritism based on employees’ marital status. Many state and federal laws do not allow businesses to treat employees or job applicants unfavorably based on whether they are single or married.

For instance, firing employees because they are married to a felon or a citizen of another country could be an example of marital status discrimination. Similarly, unlawful discrimination may be apparent when an employer offers more favorable work hours to single employees.

What Actions Are Covered?

State and federal laws protect workers from discrimination in several areas relating to employment, including job duties, job separation, leave, pay, hiring, insurance benefits, training or promotion based on whether the worker is married or single. Every employee has the right to fair treatment under state and federal discrimination laws, and employers are breaking the law if they retaliate against employees asserting their rights. Similarly, employers are obligated to ensure workers are not harassed in the workplace based on their marital status.

Many state and federal laws prohibit discrimination based on the “institution of marriage” itself, and employees are considered to be members of a protected class. Specific types of discrimination based on marital status may include the following:

  • Termination
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Failure to hire
  • Workplace conditions
  • Access to benefits
  • Access to facilities
  • Tenure
  • Compensation

Laws vary depending on the jurisdiction in which the employee resides. For more information on the rights in your state, contact your state’s employment commission.

What Federal Marital Discrimination Laws Exist? 

Although no federal law specifically prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s marital status, two federal statues provide protections that can be applied to marital discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act states that businesses that have more than 15 employees cannot discriminate based on sex, religion, race, color or national origin.

In addition, the majority of businesses, regardless of the number of full-time employees, must abide by the Equal Pay Act. This law stipulates that businesses cannot practice discriminatory compensation practices based on sex. Both legal statues are governed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. While those federal statues do not specifically prohibit marital discrimination, they do prohibit discrimination based on sex, a major factor in many marital discrimination cases.

What State Marital Discrimination Laws Exist? 

Many states have laws that specifically forbid marital status discrimination. For example, California law prohibits basing employment decisions on a job applicant’s marital status. These protections are extended to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. California law also prohibits discrimination against parents who take time off of work to care for children. Similarly, Maryland law prohibits making employment decisions or providing unequal treatment to employees based on marital status.

While many states offer some form of protection against workplace marital status discrimination, you should check your state laws for appropriate statutes.

How Do I Report Marital Status Discrimination? 

You have the right to file a complaint if you feel you have been discriminated against based upon your marital status. If you choose to pursue legal action, you can file a civil lawsuit against your employer if you feel you have experienced discriminatory treatment or been treated unfairly. Follow these basic steps to file a discrimination complaint against your employer:

First, you should contact your state’s department of employment affairs or your state’s fair employment commission. Generally, you must file a complaint with your state before you can pursue legal action. You may need to obtain a “right to sue” notice from your state before you can file a formal legal complaint.

Next, you need to wait for the state to investigate the validity of your claims. You may be asked to provide further evidence or make an official statement to an investigator. The state will either dismiss your complaint, substantiate the claim, or find no violation on the part of your employer.

Next, you can file a civil case against your employer. You may want to hire an attorney to help you file the complaint, gather evidence and interview witnesses to substantiate your claim. Your lawyer can obtain the right to sue notice and file your case with the appropriate court in your state. The case will likely be filed in the jurisdiction where the employment discrimination occurred, but some states require the lawsuit to be filed in the county where the employee resides.

Finally, the official complaint will be served to your employer. Other individuals named in the lawsuit will also be served official complaints. The defendants named in the complaint have the right to provide a formal response to the evidence outlined in the complaint. If no settlement is reached, the case may go to trial. A settlement may be reached at any point during the trial. If no settlement is reached, the judge will render a verdict.

Work With an Experienced Discrimination Attorney

If you have been discriminated against at work based on your marital status, you may need to contact an experienced attorney to help you navigate this complex process. You need to know whether to file an official complaint with the state or to file a civil lawsuit against your employer.

Do not wait any longer to receive the help you need with your marital discrimination case. Contact an attorney near you today to guide you through the process. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!

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