Skip to Content
Top

Marital Status Discrimination

Marital status
|

Marital status discrimination occurs when an employer makes an employment decision, whether it be in hiring, firing, promoting or any other employment action, based not on an employee’s skill, experience, or other qualifications, but on marital status.[1] In New York State, there are specific laws in place to safeguard individuals from discrimination based on their marital status.

The New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) serves as a shield against biased treatment on the grounds of whether an individual is single, married, divorced, separated, or falls within similar categories. This law prohibits employers from engaging in discriminatory practices, emphasizing that an individual's marital status should never be a factor in employment decisions or treatment within the workplace. In addition, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) has similar prohibitions on marital discrimination in the workplace. Because these laws are virtually similar, a plaintiff may make a case under both statutes. This means they may bring forward two causes of action for marital status discrimination if the discrimination occurred in a New York City business.[2]

Unlike the NYSHRL NYCHRL, federal law under Title VII does not prohibit employment discrimination based on marital status. Nevertheless, instances where criteria based on marital status demonstrate disparate treatment among various protected classes could potentially support a federal discrimination claim.[3]

A pivotal case, Kipper v. Doron Precision Systems, serves as a clear illustration of the stringent stance taken by the Third Department against marital status discrimination.[4] In this case, discriminatory statements directed at an employee—citing that their single status made them more financially resilient and thus a preferable candidate for layoff—were deemed as direct evidence of discrimination.[5] This verdict emphasizes the broad scope to which anti-discrimination laws apply in New York.

To defend against a case of marital discrimination, a defendant must show legitimate, independent, and nondiscriminatory reasons for its employment decision.[6] For example, once a plaintiff makes a case establishing evidence of marital discrimination, the defendant can rebut with evidence that the plaintiff's employment was terminated as part of a reduction in work force due to economic conditions, and that the plaintiff was chosen for the layoff due to lack of work.[7] Courts have established that these factors are legitimate, independent and nondiscriminatory reasons for an employment decision.[8]

It's crucial to note a notable distinction within the NYSHRL: it does not extend protections to "marital relationships."[9] This means that claims of discrimination specifically centered around marriage to a particular individual are not covered.[10] Consequently, New York's prohibition on marital status discrimination does not prevent employers from enforcing facially neutral policies aimed at preventing nepotism or favoritism. Such policies can include restrictions on employees supervising family members, including spouses, or engaging in intimate relationships within their supervisory hierarchy. One such example where a claim for marital status would not apply is when there is a refusal to hire a prospective employee based on the fact that she is married to a current employee. Such a distinction does not fall under the purview of the NYSRHL because the prospective hire is not being discriminated against based on her status as married, but instead because she is married to a specific person.[11]

While New York’s legal landscape champions the protection of individuals from unfair treatment based on their marital status, there are nuances and exceptions within the law. It is important that you are aware of the legal hurdles and dangers that may await your business. KI Legal is here to help employers navigate all types labor & employment, discrimination, and business litigation dealings – protecting your business every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you. Call (212) 404-8644 or submit a contact form on our website at kilegal.com for a free consultation.

This information is the most up to date news available as of the date posted. Please be advised that any information posted on the KI Legal Blog or Social Channels is being supplied for informational purposes only and is subject to change at any time. For more information, and clarity surrounding your individual organization or current situation, contact a member of the KI Legal team.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

KI Legal focuses on guiding companies and businesses throughout the entire legal spectrum. KI Legal’s services generally fall under three broad-based practice group areas: Transactions, Litigation and General Counsel. Its extensive client base is primarily made up of real estate developers, managers, owners and operators, lending institutions, restaurant and hospitality groups, construction companies, investment funds, and asset management firms. KI Legal’s unwavering reputation for diligent and thoughtful representation has been established and sustained by its strong team of reputable attorneys and staff. For the latest updates, follow KI Legal on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. For more information, visit kilegal.com.

 

[1] N.Y. Exec. Law §296

[2] N.Y. Admin. Code §8-107(1)(a)-(d)

[3] 29 C.F.R. §1604.4

[4] Kipper v. Doron Precision Sys. Inc, 194 A.D.2d 855, 857, 598 N.Y.S.2d 399, 401 (3d Dep’t 1993).

[5] Id.

[6] Matter of Miller Brewing Co. v. State Div. of Human Rights, 66 N.Y.2d 937, 498 N.Y.S.2d 776, 489 N.E.2d 745.

[7] Manning v. Norton Co., 189 A.D.2d 971, 972, 592 N.Y.S.2d 154 [1993].

[8] Id.

[9] Pibouin v. CA, Inc., 867 F. Supp. 2d 315, 319 (E.D.N.Y. 2012).

[10] Manhattan Pizza Hut, Inc. v. New York State Hum. Rts. Appeal Bd., 51 N.Y.2d 506, 511–12, 415 N.E.2d 950, 953 (1980).

[11] See id.

Share To: