Reveal Law

Marital Status Discrimination: Know Your Rights and Legal Recourse

Marital Status and Employment: What You Need to KnowDid you know that your marital status is not protected under federal employment law? While many factors such as race, sex, and age are protected classes under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, your marital status is not one of them.

This means that employers can legally make employment decisions based on your marital status, whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed. However, it’s important to note that some states do offer protection against marital status discrimination.

In this article, we will explore the current state of federal and state employment laws regarding marital status protection in the United States.

Federal laws and protected classes

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees and job applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. While this important legislation has been instrumental in combating discrimination, it does not include marital status as a protected class.

Thus, federal law does not explicitly prohibit employers from making hiring, promotion, or termination decisions based on an individual’s marital status.

Civil Service Reform Act and marital status discrimination

Even within the federal government, there is no comprehensive protection against marital status discrimination. The Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) sets the framework for federal employment law, but it also does not include marital status as a protected class.

However, the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) do have regulations in place to address certain forms of marital status discrimination. For example, an employee who is denied a promotion solely because of their marital status may be able to file a complaint with the MSPB or OSC.

States where marital status is a protected class

Although federal law does not protect against marital status discrimination, several states have taken it upon themselves to provide their employees with this protection. In Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York, marital status is recognized as a protected class.

This means that employers in these states cannot make employment decisions based on an individual’s marital status, just as they cannot discriminate based on other protected classes.

States with other forms of discrimination protection

In addition to states that protect against marital status discrimination, some states have laws in place that protect employees from other forms of discrimination related to family or parental status. For example, in Kentucky, employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their parental status or familial status.

This means that individuals with children or caregiving responsibilities are protected from adverse employment actions solely based on their familial or parental status. In conclusion, while federal employment law does not protect against marital status discrimination, several states have recognized the importance of protecting individuals from this form of discrimination.

It’s essential to be aware of your rights and the laws in your particular state as you navigate the job market. Understanding the landscape of employment laws can help employees and job applicants advocate for their rights and ensure fair treatment in the workplace.

Understanding Protected Classes and Legal Recourse for DiscriminationIn any society, it is crucial to protect individuals from discrimination based on certain traits or characteristics. These traits, also known as protected classes, are legally recognized and safeguarded to ensure equal opportunities and fair treatment for all.

Throughout this article, we will delve into the definition of protected class, explore the specific traits protected from discrimination, and examine the legal recourse available for those who experience discrimination in various areas of life.

Traits or characteristics protected from discrimination

Protected classes refer to groups of individuals who are protected from discrimination based on certain characteristics. These characteristics vary but typically pertain to inherent qualities that should not be the basis for differential treatment.

Age, race, and religion are some of the primary traits considered protected classes. Age: Age discrimination laws exist to prevent unfair treatment based on an individual’s age.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from discrimination in the workplace. This law prohibits employers from making employment decisions, such as hiring or firing, based solely on an individual’s age.

Race: Racial discrimination is prohibited by various federal and state laws, with the primary federal law being Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This significant legislation aims to eliminate racial discrimination in employment and other areas of public life.

It protects individuals from disparate treatment or adverse actions based on race, color, national origin, or ethnicity. Religion: The protection of religious freedom and the prevention of discrimination based on religion are fundamental rights in the United States.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from treating employees unfavorably due to their religious beliefs or practices. Employers are legally required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious practices, as long as the accommodations do not cause undue hardship for the employer.

Legal recourse for discrimination in various areas

Discrimination can occur in various aspects of life, including the workplace, housing, educational opportunities, and public accommodations. Laws provide legal recourse for individuals who experience discrimination in these areas.

Workplace: In the workplace, employees who face discrimination based on protected traits can seek legal recourse. They usually file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency responsible for enforcing antidiscrimination laws.

The EEOC investigates these complaints and may provide mediation or file a lawsuit on behalf of the employee. Housing: The Fair Housing Act protects individuals from discrimination when seeking housing.

This act prohibits landlords and housing providers from denying housing based on protected traits such as race, religion, and familial status. Individuals who believe they have experienced housing discrimination can file complaints with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or take legal action.

Educational Opportunities: Discrimination in educational institutions is prohibited by several federal laws. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ensures equal access to education without discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.

Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in education, covering areas such as admissions, faculty, and extracurricular activities. Individuals who encounter discrimination can file complaints with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education.

Public Accommodations: Discrimination in public accommodations, such as hotels, restaurants, and transportation services, is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This legislation ensures equal access to and enjoyment of public places irrespective of protected characteristics.

Individuals can file complaints with the appropriate federal agency, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the EEOC.

Types of damages

When individuals experience discrimination and pursue legal action, they may be entitled to various types of damages as compensation. Money Damages: Money damages, also known as compensatory damages, are awarded to compensate individuals for their losses resulting from discrimination.

This includes a monetary award to compensate for financial harm, such as lost wages, benefits, or future earning potential, as well as emotional distress endured due to the discrimination. Punitive Damages: In cases where the discrimination is particularly severe or intentional, punitive damages may be awarded in addition to compensatory damages.

Punitive damages aim to punish the offender and deter similar behavior in the future. Equitable Remedies: In some cases, a court may order equitable remedies to rectify the harm caused by discrimination.

This could include reinstating an employee to their position, providing reasonable accommodations, or implementing policies to prevent future discrimination.

Components of money damages

When individuals receive money damages as compensation for discrimination, several components are generally considered. Back Pay: Back pay refers to the wages and benefits that an individual would have earned if the discrimination had not occurred.

The court may require the employer to compensate the employee for the lost income during the period of discrimination. Front Pay: Front pay refers to future wages and benefits that an employee may have lost due to the discrimination.

If reinstating the employee to their previous position is not feasible, the court may award front pay to compensate for the ongoing financial impact. Employment Benefits: Discrimination can also result in the loss of employment benefits such as healthcare coverage, retirement contributions, or stock options.

Money damages may include compensation for these lost benefits. Emotional Distress: Discrimination can cause significant emotional distress, including mental anguish, humiliation, and anxiety.

Compensation may be awarded for the emotional harm suffered as a result of the discrimination. Court Costs and Attorneys’ Fees: In many cases, the court will order the respondent to pay the prevailing party’s court costs and attorneys’ fees.

This provision helps ensure access to legal representation for individuals who experience discrimination and seek justice through legal means. In conclusion, protected classes offer legal protection to individuals based on certain traits or characteristics.

Discrimination based on age, race, or religion is prohibited under various federal laws, ensuring equal treatment in employment, housing, education, and public accommodations. Those who experience discrimination can seek legal recourse, including financial compensation through money damages, punitive damages, and equitable remedies.

Understanding the rights and legal options available can empower individuals to challenge discrimination and promote a fair and inclusive society for all. Marital Status Discrimination Law in California: Protections and Legal ProcessCalifornia is known for being at the forefront of progressive employment laws, including comprehensive protections against discrimination.

In terms of marital status discrimination, California law offers robust safeguarding through the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). This article will explore the specific provisions of marital status protection under California law, discuss discriminatory questions and exceptions during the hiring process, and explain the process of filing a complaint and the legal recourse available to individuals who experience marital status discrimination in the state.

Marital status protection under California law

California’s FEHA provides explicit protection against marital status discrimination in employment. The law prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an individual’s marital status, whether they are married, single, divorced, widowed, or in a domestic partnership.

The FEHA covers a wide range of discriminatory practices, including but not limited to hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, and compensation decisions. It is important for employers to recognize that marital status discrimination in any form is unlawful under California law.

Furthermore, the FEHA protects individuals from discrimination based on other personal characteristics as well, such as race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and national origin. These overlapping protections create a comprehensive framework for promoting diversity, equality, and fairness in the workplace.

Discriminatory questions and exceptions

During the hiring process, it is essential for employers to be aware of what questions may constitute marital status discrimination. California law prohibits employers from asking applicants about their marital status, including questions about their spouse, marital history, or plans for marriage.

Such inquiries are considered discriminatory and unrelated to a person’s ability to perform the job. There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule.

Employers may ask questions that are specifically related to a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). For example, a religious institute may inquire about an individual’s marital status if it is directly relevant to the requirements of the position, such as a role that involves leading religious services or teaching religious doctrine to married couples.

Additionally, employers may consider an applicant’s marital status during a background check if there is a legitimate conflict of interest involved, such as hiring a close relative or a spouse.

Filing a complaint and legal process in California

If an individual believes they have been subjected to marital status discrimination in California, they have the right to file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD). The CRD is the state agency responsible for enforcing the FEHA and processing discrimination complaints.

Complaints must be filed with the CRD within one year of the alleged discriminatory action. Upon receipt of a complaint, the CRD will conduct an investigation into the allegations.

This investigatory process may involve interviews with the parties involved, gathering evidence, and reviewing relevant documents. The CRD encourages parties to utilize mediation as a means of resolving the dispute before resorting to litigation.

If mediation fails or is not pursued, the CRD may proceed with an administrative hearing to determine whether there is evidence of discrimination. If discrimination is found, appropriate remedies may be ordered, including financial compensation and injunctive relief.

In the event that the CRD decides not to pursue the complaint or issues a “right to sue” letter, the complainant retains the right to file a lawsuit in state court. It is crucial to consult with an experienced employment attorney to understand the best course of action and navigate the legal process effectively.


Marital status discrimination is explicitly prohibited under California’s FEHA, providing significant protection for individuals in the state. Employers in California must be mindful of the law’s provisions and refrain from discriminatory practices during the hiring process and throughout employment.

Awareness of the exceptions to marital status questions and the legal process for filing complaints can empower individuals who experience discrimination to seek justice and hold employers accountable. By upholding these protections, California continues to champion equality and fairness in the workplace.

Popular Posts