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!