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What Is Marital Status Discrimination?

February 6th, 2023
Marital Status Discrimination

Employers cannot discriminate against applicants or employees based on race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation. These regulations are upheld by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Marital status discrimination is not specifically protected by federal laws, however, protection may still exist against misconduct related to marital status, as marital discrimination is considered sex-based discrimination. Applicable types of marital status include:

  • Single.
  • Married.
  • Engaged.
  • Divorced or annulled marriage.
  • Same-sex marriage.
  • Legal separation.
  • Currently divorcing.
  • Widowed.
  • Planning to eventually or never marry.

Claims of marital status discrimination often involve additional related discrimination claims, typically age, gender, or sexual orientation. Many states have adopted state and local laws against marital status discrimination in addition to those imposed federally. Pennsylvania also prohibits familial discrimination, which is based on whether a candidate or employee does or does not have children.

Employers who favor employees of a certain marital status, such as offering promotions or benefits to only unmarried employees, are using discriminatory practices. Questions regarding marital and parenthood status are most commonly used against women and result in a denial or limitation to employment opportunities.

When interviewing potential employees, the EEOC advises employers to avoid asking non-work questions involving marital status. Questions such as these are permissible following a job offer and acceptance for insurance purposes, but the information should not then be used as a means to discriminate against the employee. The EEOC identifies certain pre-employment inquiries as potentially discriminatory, as follows:

  • Applicant’s current pregnancy status.
  • Future childbearing plans.
  • Number of current children and ages.
  • Childcare arrangements during work hours.
  • Name and employment status of applicant’s spouse.

What Are Examples of Marital Status Discrimination?

Employers who determine whether to hire, promote, discipline, terminate, or provide benefits based on an individual’s marital status are using discriminatory tactics. Additional tactics include:

  • Refusing to interview candidates.
  • Not hiring candidates with children.
  • Denying or failing to offer training opportunities.
  • Refusing to hire candidates in same-sex marriages.
  • Demoting employees or reducing wages following an employee’s marriage or divorce.
  • Forcing employees to resign.
  • Paying lower wages to employees without children or other marital status.
  • Providing better benefits to a particular group of employees, such as married versus unmarried.
  • Firing employees in same-sex marriages.
  • Assigning unfavorable work schedules or shifts.

Despite regulations, some employers continue to give preferential treatment to certain employees or candidates based on their marital status. Employees who are discriminated against may be able to file a claim or lawsuit for various remedies, depending on the nature of the discrimination, such as reinstatement, back or front pay, and attorney fees and court costs.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Represent Clients Experiencing Discrimination Based on Marital Status

If your employer has discriminated against you due to your marital status, you may be eligible to file a claim. Our experienced Philadelphia employment lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. can help you fight back. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, and Montgomery County.

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