Is-Your-Employer-Showing-Signs-of-Marital-Status-Discrimination-Part-1.jpg (4297×2317)Not all types of discrimination are obvious. These days, we’re pretty vigilant for signs of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or religion. It’s pretty hard to miss the most typical types of sexism. We’re all working hard to identify instances of disability discrimination. But unless an employer is particularly obnoxious, marital status discrimination is incredibly easy to miss.

In a highly moral/immoral society, marital status bias is also surprisingly common. Employers are human, and we all have our own opinions about relationships. On one hand, there are people who feel that marriage is a sign of maturity. On the other, there are wildly independent (and single) people who distrust the joint decision-making of a married couple. And everything in between. While these opinions are quirks in your social life, they can be devastating if a manager or business owner’s personal feelings about marriage and relationships starts to impact their policies.

Recognizing Marital Status Discrimination

Here in California, workplace discrimination based on your marital status is illegal. Your employer is not allowed to make decisions based on whether you are or are not married, or who your spouse is, or whether they like your spouse. The key to ensuring a fair workplace is to spot marital status discrimination when the signs are evident.

To do this, it helps to know the different ways that this kind of problem has happened in workplaces already.

The Mercenary

Employers who want to squeeze the most possible value out of their employees are actually more likely to discriminate against married people. Married employees have someone to go home to, possibly children to spend time with before bed. They will want predictable weekday hours with minimal late nights and weekends.

Young, lonely, and otherwise unattached employees are more ‘valuable’ because they can work nights and weekends more often. Their holiday schedule is less demanding and there’s no one at home to point out when work-life balance has gone out of whack. So some employers hire single people more eagerly because they are easier to give difficult hours and overtime. This is definitely a form of marital status discrimination, also called  family obligation discrimination.

The Family Hours

Some employers have the same presumption about family time, but a different approach to discrimination. Instead of only hiring unmarried people, they give preferential hours to the employees who happen to be married. Those with a spouse and/or children are given the most reliable hours and almost never scheduled for weekend shifts.

While this sounds great, problems occur when shifts are distributed unfairly to unmarried people. If someone who asked for a predictable shift, but is unmarried, is given random weekends and late-nights so that married people can always have the good hours, this is another form of unfair treatment. Based on marital status.

The Maturity Test

Managers who are traditionally conservative may see marriage as an important maturity step. This is perfectly normal, but in effect they see married employees as more mature, and therefore more trustworthy and personally developed, than unmarried employees. In workplaces like this, people who are married are more likely to be promoted into positions of authority. Especially managerial positions over others. While unmarried people are kept in team-member and specialist roles where personal maturity is not as emphasized.

This may also result in employers that pressure their single staff members to get married. So that they can promote them. In this way, discrimination isn’t malicious at all, but it does deny single people (and those in non-traditional relationships) from promotion opportunities.

Join us next time for the second half of this two-part article for three more types of marital status discrimination and how to spot it in the workplace. For more information or a friendly consultation on your employer’s behaviors, contact us today!

(Read Part 2 here)

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986