Marital Status Discrimination Prohibited In New Jersey

New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (LAD) bans an employer from making decisions to hire, promote, pay raises, discipline and/or discharge an employee based on an employee’s marital status. The LAD defines “marital status” to include those who are single, engaged, married, separated, divorced or widowed. The apparent public policy underlying the ban on marital-status-based discrimination is to protect from outside interference one of the most important decision a person will make in their lifetime, that is, the decision to get married or remain married.

Although New Jersey has recognized same sex marriage since 2013, our United States Supreme Court in 2015 guaranteed the right to same sex marriage throughout the country. Hence, the marital status protections under the LAD apply equally to persons of a same sex marriage.

An employer may terminate an employee because of a family relationship to another employee, even if the relationship in a selected case is marital.  However, an employer may not treat differently employees who engage in the same behavior, because of their marital status. For example, an employer may not take disciplinary action against married employees who have extramarital affairs, while at the same time taking no adverse action against unmarried employees who engaged in sexual activity. Slohoda v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 193 N.J. Super. 586, 589-92 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 97 N.J. 606 (1984). Likewise, an employer cannot accept the presence of married couples in the workplace, but reject divorcing couples.

Despite the ban on marital status discrimination, an employer’s anti-nepotism policy does not run afoul of LAD's proscription against marital-status-based discrimination. This is because such policies are not specifically targeted at persons based on marital status

Not only is it against the law for an employer to discriminate against someone because of their marital status, but a person may not be discriminated because of their marital status outside the workplace when it comes to:

  • buying or receiving good or services;
  • renting an apartment, or buying a house or real estate;
  • applying for and admission to a college or a trade school;
  • attempting to join an organization open to the general public; and
  • using facilities open to the general public.

Remedies for marital status discrimination include reinstating the victim, disciplining, transferring, or firing the harasser(s), providing back pay and/or front pay, and taking preventative and remedial measures at the workplace. An employer will be liable for compensatory damages such as emotional distress damages.  An employer can be liable for punitive damages in the event of actual participation by upper management or willful indifference.   Additionally, for a claim brought under LAD, the prevailing party plaintiff may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and costs.

If you believe you have been or are currently being treated differently by your employer because of your marital status, call the lawyers at Mashel Law (732) 536-6161 or fill out the contact form on this page. Mashel Law located in Marlboro, New Jersey, is dedicated exclusively to protecting the rights of employees.

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