(Read Part 1 here)

Welcome back to the second half of our two-part article on marital status discrimination in the workplace. Last time we talked about the challenge of spotting this type of discrimination and three ways that it appears in modern workplaces. Join us again today as we pick up with three more types of marital status discrimination and what you can do to stop the unfair decision-making process.

The Couples Club

Sometimes, the motivation is neither economic or moral. In some businesses, the upper leadership are all married and highly social. You may be familiar with the troubles of a cliquish work culture where promotions are based on friendship.

When cliquishness turns into marital status discrimination, it usually has something to do with dinner parties. Upper management casually starts a tradition of dinner parties with each others spouses. They like each other’s spouses and everyone has a good time. But if they add a manager who is single or whose spouse they don’t like, then these parties would be less fun for everyone. Unfortunately, this leads to management considering promotions based on who they want to go to dinner with. Not who is most qualified or has worked the hardest for the position.

In some cases, they may even make the decision based on whether your spouse might be fun to have dinner with. Someone whose spouse was fun at company Christmas parties might get unacknowledged acceleration into management to join the dinner party culture. Yes, there really are companies that wind up being run this way. At least for a time.

This also creates a pattern of married managers, but with a completely different motivation behind the decision-making process.

The Divorce Endorser

Then there are workplaces led by someone who has been through a bad relationship and break-up or divorce. While they have a right to rebound from that personally, trouble happens when ‘The Boss’ brings that to the workplace. Sometimes, a business owner or manager will decide that all relationships are poison and we’re all better off single.

This can lead to a number of erratic and maritally-discriminatory behaviors. They may decide that married people can’t be trusted because they make joint-decisions. Or start a singles night tradition that excludes married employees. They may even decide that their awesome staff is too good for their partners and begin pressuring people to become single or, worst of all, trying to drive a wedge between employees and their partners.

Fortunately, this type of marital status discrimination is usually limited to the sphere of one bad boss. But if it’s ongoing, it is still a real problem and can hurt staff forced to endure it.

The Spouse Judgment

The final type of marital status discrimination is when a workplace makes decisions about your career based on who your spouse is. Instead of your personal performance and dedication. If a person’s spouse is politically active in a way that their employer is opposed to, that shouldn’t matter in the workplace. But if the employer uses that to deny promotions and opportunities, this is a form of marital status discrimination

Just the same as if a religious employer (legal) discriminates against an employee because their spouse is of a different religion. Especially if the employee never brings religion into the workplace or acts counter to the company’s stated policies.

You may also see marital status discrimination if your spouse has a reputation in the industry or works in the same company or contractor circles. Some employers are so against ‘fraternization’ that they would refuse to hire someone if they already employed their spouse. Though they can (and usually should) prevent people in a relationship from being in the same management chain. They also can’t fire you if your spouse quits, or refuse to promote you if your spouse doesn’t take a contract.

If you have been exposed to marital status discrimination in your workplace, no matter how seemingly normal or well-meaning, know that there is something you can do. In California, marital status discrimination is illegal. By consulting with an employment law attorney, you can help to end the damaging cycle for both yourself and your coworkers trapped in the same situation. In fact, even people who are benefited by the biased system can be in a bad place because they know decisions were made unfairly.

Here at Aiman-Smith & Marcy, we specialize in helping employees defend their rights against employers who seem too big to handle. From abusive bosses to entrenched patterns of discrimination, we can help you get the fair workplace treatment that you and your colleagues deserve. For more about marital status discrimination or to consult with a friendly expert on your situation, contact us today!

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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