California Labor Law: Your Marital Status Shouldn't Matter

Find A California Labor Law Attorney for Marital Status Discrimination


Whether you're married or single should never affect your job. If your boss uses your marital status against you, it could be grounds for a discrimination claim under California Employment Law. Consult a Labor Lawyer in California if this happens to you.


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What Qualifies as Marital Status Discrimination in California?


As with discrimination cases, marital status discrimination is when your employer makes employment decisions with a bias rooted in your marital status.


When an employer starts treating an employee unjustly because of their marital status—be it in terms of pay, career growth, hiring, termination, or any other significant way—it can be enough grounds for a claim. Having biases against an unmarried pregnant woman may include both pregnancy and marital status discrimination.


The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) forbids discrimination in the workplace based on a person's marital status, whether they are married, unmarried, divorced, separated, widowed, annulled, or have any other marital status.

On the other hand, employers can establish reasonable limitations, such as prohibiting couples from working within the same department.

While it isn't the most common kind of unlawful discrimination, it does occur. Marital status discrimination occurs when an employee is treated unfairly because of his or her marital status, whether married, separated, divorced, single, or widowed.

Can It Happen During Job Interviews?


Yes. The same regulations apply if you're looking for work. If you're going on a job interview, you can't be asked directly or indirectly about your marital status.

Intentionally soliciting information about an applicant's marital status during a casual conversation during a job interview is likewise prohibited. Here are other questions considered to be inappropriate:

  1. Whether or not the applicant is planning to start a family.

  2. The status of the applicant's marriage or whether or not he or she intends to marry.

  3. The number of children and their children's details, as well as an applicant's plans for childbearing.

  4. An applicant's child-care arrangements (i.e., whether they'll drop their children off at school, if they look after the kids themselves, etc.).

  5. Name of the applicant's spouse.

  6. Anything related to the spouse's job or status.

It is against the law for your boss to inquire about your marital or family status. It is not appropriate if a candidate is pressured to provide details about his or her family commitments.


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Why Does Marital Status Discrimination Happen?


It's helpful to know how this problem has previously emerged in the workplace. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Employers who might want to get the most out of their employees are more likely to discriminate against married persons. Married employees have someone to return home to and, more than likely, children to spend time with before bed. They'll like regular daytime hours with a few late evenings and weekends thrown in for good measure.

  • Young, single, and otherwise unattached employees are more "valued" since they can work longer nights and weekends. Their vacation schedule is less demanding, and they don't have someone at home to remind them when their work-life balance is out of whack. As a result, some businesses prefer to hire single people because it is easy to assign them difficult hours and overtime.

Sometimes, it isn't just the marital status in itself. Chances are, there will be sex-based bias depending on assumptions. For example, some employers don't favor married women because of the future possibility of them having children.

Other examples of common assumptions include:

  • Believing that a female employee's engagement or marriage will increase her chances of becoming pregnant and taking parental leave.

  • When a female employee is married, an employer's unwelcome sexual advances are more likely to be refused.

  • Married employees are less likely to accept job rewards and promotions in return for sexual favors.

  • An employer who pays male employees more than female employees based on the erroneous idea that only men can provide for their families as breadwinners.

How Do I Know I'm Being Discriminated At Work?


When an employer makes hiring decisions based on their prejudice against a disabled employee, this is an example of discrimination. These employment decisions include everything from hiring to firing.


Here are some examples of employment actions that could be considered discrimination based on marital status:

  1. The refusal to hire a candidate. If an employer or hiring team refuses to hire a qualified candidate simply because of their marital status, the applicant might pursue a discrimination lawsuit.

  2. Refusal to advance. Employees may be passed over for promotions by biased bosses, even if they are more deserving than their coworkers. This prevents an employee from rising through the ranks of the firm.

  3. HR dismisses claims of discrimination. If you are being harassed or discriminated against by coworkers on a regular basis, you should report the events to HR. It could be a case of marital status discrimination if your HR department ignores your complaint or your company chooses not to act.

  4. Reports/complaints are met with retaliation. A retaliatory act based on discrimination occurs when you report an incident of discrimination to your HR department and your employer punishes you (i.e., demotion, dismissal, transfer, pay cutbacks) in an attempt to get back at you. For Employment Retaliation allegations, you should also consult a California Labor Law Attorney.

  5. Terminating an employee because of their present (or changed) marital status. Employers are forbidden from terminating an employee because of their disability, whether out of retribution or bias. If you believe your firing was the result of discrimination, you may want to consider filing a Wrongful Termination Case.

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What is a Marital Status Discrimination Claim's Statute of Limitations?


You have a year from the date of the most recent biased incident to file a complaint.


If you claim of discrimination in California, you should first contact the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). They can either take care of the case for you or offer you "the right to sue," allowing you to file your complaint with an Employment Attorney in California.


Find An Marital Status Discrimination Attorney in California


No win, no fees! Gency.org can help you find a Contingency Lawyer for your Employment Cases in California. You can complete our submission form for a free case review.

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