Marital Status Termination

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. Cal. Gov. 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 Cal.C.Regs. §7292.1(a). Example: An employer discriminated when it refused to hire unmarried mothers and single people as well as by denying maternity leave to unmarried mothers. Chen v. County of Orange, (2002) 96 C4th 926, 940 (dictum).

In order to bring a claim for wrongful termination based on an employee's marital status, the plaintiff 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,
  • and that other employees with a different marital status (i.e., who were not single) were not terminated by the employer. (Ex: other workers who were married retained similar jobs, and the employee who is bringing the claim is single and lost his or her position to an individual with similar qualifications to the discharged employee but who was married).

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 a reason to get rid of one of them." Hope Int'l Univ. v. Sup. Ct. (Rouanzoin), (2004) 119 C4th 719, 724, 743. Example: A university has been held liable for terminating two professors who had married each other. Id.

However, despite that 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. Cal. Gov. Code §12940(a)(3)(A). In addition, FEHC 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 Cal. C. Regs. §7292.5(b) (emphasis added).

However, employers who discharge employees that have known extramarital affairs are not technically discriminating on the basis of "marital status." Hope Int'l Univ. v. Sup. Ct. (Rouanzoin). 119 C4th at 743.

Finally, employers may not terminate spouses of individuals that the employer disfavors. For example, the employer may not discriminate against an employed white female solely because she married an African American male. Chen v. County of Orange, 96 C4th at 943.

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. 323-857-5900. Ask about our free initial consultation.