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Marital Status Discrimination

We often associate employment discrimination with any adverse conduct in any aspect of employment based mainly on an employee or applicant’s race, sex, national origin, color, and religion. To begin with, these traits are just one of the reasons why cases of discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace continue to rise. However, there are other cases of such in which certain characteristics involved are not well-known to a lot of people. This includes cases of discriminatory conduct to individuals on account of their marital status.

Fortunately, there are a lot of laws that protect individuals in the workplace from being singled out in any aspect of employment due to their marital status. Basically, one’s marital status involves his or her status of being married, divorced, separated, and annulled. One federal law called the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 protects people applying for jobs in the federal government and employees from being discriminated against in personnel actions based on their protected classes, including marital status.

In California, the state statute called the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), also protect individuals from employment discrimination on account of their marital status. The FEHA describes one’s marital status as one’s “state of marriage, non-marriage, divorce, or dissolution, separation, widowhood, annulment, or other marital state.” To say the least, the FEHA provides broader interpretations and coverage to individuals who belong to a specific protected class. Although it was derived from the known federal laws such as the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities (ADA) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), it also covers other characteristics; other than marital status, it protects employees and applicants from unlawful employment conduct on account of their sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and being pregnant, bearing a child, or having a medical condition related to such, among others.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of possible scenarios that could be considered as discrimination based on marital status. Generally, it happens when an employee or applicant gets harassed verbally or be subjected unreasonably to an adverse employment action just because he or she is single, married, divorced, widowed, or is living with either a same-sex or opposite-sex partner in a household but is not married. Common actions that are considered discriminatory under this include wrongfully terminating the employee, using his or her marital status as motivation for carrying out the employment action; reducing his or her salary or any other compensation, job reassignment, and getting denied a chance for advancement in employment. Verbal and/or non-verbal harassment in an effort to make life miserable for the individual could also be on the basis of one’s marital status.

Indeed, individuals who suffered discrimination in the workplace due to their respective marital status must be able to exercise their rights. Putting up complaints of marital status discrimination in California can be done with the help of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), as well as with the legal assistance of an attorney who specializes in handling employment and labor cases in California.

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