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Marital Status Termination
The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA): It is unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire; to discharge or to terminate; to refuse to select or to bar or discharge an employee from a training program leading to employment; or to discriminate against the person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment" because of the employee's marital status. California Government Code § 12940(a).
Marital status is defined as, "a(n) individual's state of marriage, non-marriage, divorce or dissolution, separation, widowhood, annulment, or other marital state." 2 California Code of Regulations § 11053. For example, an employer was found to have illegally discriminated when it refused to hire unmarried mothers because they were unmarried and single people because they were single as well as by denying maternity leave to unmarried mothers because they were unmarried. Chen v. County of Orange (2002) 96 Cal.App.4th 926, 940. Employers have also been found liable for discrimination when they have refused to promote an employee to the position of associate warden despite the many accolades he received over the years because the employee’s wife was also an associate warden. The employer tried to justify the refusal to promote by intentionally misinterpreting an anti-nepotism policy.
Marital status does not protect against discrimination for being married to a particular person. The concept of marital status does not include the specific identity or actions of an individual worker's spouse. For example, though it may be unfair or unethical where an office worker was fired because his wife was an assistant district attorney involved in the conviction of his employer’s first cousin for domestic violence, this is not marital status termination because the office worker was fired for who they were married to, not because they were married.
By the same token, employers who discharge employees that have known extramarital affairs are not technically discriminating on the basis of "marital status." Hope Internat. University v. Super. Ct. (Rouanzoin) (2004) 119 Cal.App.4th 719, 743.
In order to bring a claim for wrongful termination based on an employee's marital status, the employee needs to prove that the employee:
- has a particular marital status, (i.e., engaged),
- that the employee's job performance was satisfactory, or that the employee was qualified for the job which they were not hired for,
- that the employee was terminated,
- that individuals outside the protected class were treated more favorable or some other circumstances that suggest a discriminatory motive
Employers may not refuse to employ a husband or a wife simply because they are both working for the employer as a married couple. "California's marital status antidiscrimination laws are clear that marriage between two coworkers is not ipso facto (by the fact itself) a reason to get rid of one of them." Hope Internat. University v. Super. Ct. (Rouanzoin) (2004) 119 Cal.App.4th 719, 724, 743. Therefore, a university could not terminate two professors because they had gotten married to each other. Id.
While antidiscrimination laws forbid wrongful terminations of married individuals working for the same employer, "reasonable regulation" over the working of spouses in the same department is allowed. California Government Code § 12940(a)(3)(A). In addition, FEHA regulations state that the employer "shall make reasonable efforts to assign job duties so as to minimize problems of supervision, safety, security, or morale." 2 California Code of Regulations § 11057(b).
The choice of who to marry cannot be made by your employer. For example, an employer could not terminate a white employee who married an African American. Chen supra at 943. Likewise, employers could not terminate an employee who marries a person of the same sex/gender.Contact Us
If you have been terminated from your workplace based on your marital status, contact the esteemed marital status termination attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC. Ask about our free initial consultation.