Is it legal for an employer to use an employee’s marital status as a factor in deciding which employee is going to be laid off?

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Is it legal for an employer to use an employee’s marital status as a factor in deciding which employee is going to be laid off?

I was laid off 3 months ago. The stated reason was downsizing due to decreased revenue. During a recent conversation between a friend of mine (who works for my former employer), the company owner said that if I had been married or had a family, I probably would not have been the person who was chosen to be laid off. Is the owner (who decided that I was to be laid off) allowed to use my marital status as a factor in that decision? Is that considered discriminatory?

Asked on August 17, 2011 Florida

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Deciding issues regarding employment based upon one's marital status can indeed be discriminatory.  There are laws that apply not only on the Federal level (Title VII of the Equal Employment Opportunity Act) but on the State level as well.  They are civil rights laws and it is my understanding that Florida Civil rights law do include marital status as a basis.  That means that deciding employment issues based upon your marital status violates your civil rights and is actionable.  I would seek consultation on the matter from an attorney in your area as soon as you can. The sooner that you deal with the issue the better for statute of limitations purposes. Good luck.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

It may be considered illegal employment discrimination in your state. Federal law does not protect marital status in employement--that is, under federal law, an employer could legally discriminate among employees on the basis of whether they are married or not. However, states are allowed to add more categories of protection, and Florida, like most states, has chosen to do this. So it appears that  under Florida law, it is indeed illegal to discriminate in employment--which includes in terminating employment--on the basis of an employee's marital status. You may therefore have a legal claim, and it would be worthwhile for you to consult with a FL employment attorney to explore whether you do in fact have a claim and what it might be worth. Below is a link to a webste that may provide some information:

http://fchr.state.fl.us/resources/the_laws/chapter_760_florida_statutes__1


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