Marital Status Discrimination
Sept. 7, 2017
Marital status is not protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but federal employees are protected from discrimination in the workplace based on marital status under revisions made in 1978. States and city laws may also protect marital status from discrimination in the workplace in many states.
In some scenarios, marital status discrimination may fall under gender discrimination. For example, suppose a married woman is passed over for a promotion in favor of an unmarried man, as he is seen as someone with more free time to devote to work. In that case, the married woman can argue for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
It is important to remember that employees can not be asked questions that can be perceived as potentially discriminatory during the interviewing process. For example, an individual may not ask whether or not an applicant is married, whether or not an applicant plans to start a family, or for maiden names.
In 2008, a Catholic School teacher filed a complaint with the EEOC claiming marital status discrimination after she was fired from her job for marrying a divorced man. In the weeks following her dismissal, she was asked to resign and to have her future husband seek an annulment through the Catholic Church.
Minnesota has state laws that specifically protect marital status, noting that an employer can not make hiring decisions or firing decisions based on marital status or the identity of one’s married partner. Several other states have similar statutes.