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Can Marriage Cost You a Job?

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LeAnn Taylor was a receptionist at a cabinet making company who married the president of the company. When the business began performing poorly, the parent company’s CEO terminated several employees, including Ms. Taylor and her husband.

She sued for marital status discrimination, alleging that the CEO said “it would probably be awkward” for her to stay since her husband was leaving, and that her position was eliminated because she would probably have to relocate with her husband.

A Minnesota trial court said she didn’t show that her firing was directed at her marital status but the appeals court said her suit could go forward:

“Our legislature defined ‘marital status’ to expressly include the ‘identity, situation, [and] actions’ of an employee’s spouse. We are bound to apply this clear expression of legislative intent. We conclude that the district court erred in dismissing [the plaintiff]’s claim on the ground that it did not represent a direct attack on the institution of marriage. …

“By its clear terms, [the Minnesota law] prohibits an employer from discriminating against an ee based on the … the situation of the employee’s spouse. The crux of [plaintiff’s] claim is that [the employer] terminated her based on the identity and situation of her spouse, a co-employee whose forced resignation was occurring at the same time. This claim falls squarely within the statutory definition of ‘marital status,’” the court held.

Similarly, under New Hampshire law, it is an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer, because of “marital status,” to refuse to hire or employ or discharge from employment.