Can my employer discriminate against me because of who I am married to?

UPDATED: Apr 6, 2012

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Can my employer discriminate against me because of who I am married to?

My wife has done our company’s website for 6 years and when it became time to renew the website’s contract my employer refused to sign the new contract causing the website to disappear. My employer is blaming me for not interfering with my wife’s company’s business and has cut my pay 8% so he can fund a new website from someone else and is using my pay to fund it and has threatened me with termination several times. I asked if anyone else took a pay cut and he wouldn’t tell me.

Asked on April 6, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The law allows employers to  "discriminate" against employees--to treat them differently, or, frankly, unfairly--so long as they not doing so on the basis of one of a small number of specifically protected categories. For example, under federal law, an employer may not treat an employee worse because of his or her race, sex, religion, age ove 40, or disability.

However, neither federal nor state law prohibits an employer from treating an employee worse because of who his wife is, when the employer's issue with the wife is based on past business dealings between the employer and the wife. And if you do not have an employment contract setting or guarantying your wage, your employer is generally free to reduce it at will, unless the reduction is due to one of those few, specifically protected categories discussed above.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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