Marital Status

Is "Marital Status" a Protected Class?

Imagine being passed over for a promotion because you’re single, or being denied a rental apartment because you’re divorced. It’s unsettling, isn’t it? Well, this is where the concept of ‘protected classes’ comes into play.

But, you might wonder, ‘Is marital status considered one of these protected classes?’ It’s a complex issue, touched not only by federal laws but also varying state regulations.

Let’s delve into this intriguing legal landscape, and I promise, by the end, you’ll have a much clearer understanding of where you stand.

Understanding Marital Status Protection

To fully grasp the concept of marital status protection, it’s crucial to understand that while marital status isn’t recognized as a protected class under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it’s deemed a protected class in approximately half of the U.S. states, including California, Connecticut, and Florida.

This means that in these states, you’re legally shielded from discrimination based on whether you’re married, single, divorced, or widowed. If you’re a victim of such discrimination, you can file a lawsuit. Damages in these lawsuits could include compensation for lost pay and emotional distress, or court orders to rectify the situation.

However, remember that this protection isn’t nationwide; several states, like Alabama and Louisiana, still don’t offer explicit marital status protection.

State-Specific Marital Status Laws

Navigating the intricate web of state-specific laws regarding marital status discrimination, you’ll discover a significant divergence in protections offered across the United States. Roughly half of the states deem marital status a protected class, including Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York. This means in these states, you can file lawsuits for discrimination based on marital status.

Conversely, states like Alabama, Iowa, and Louisiana don’t explicitly protect marital status, but may safeguard other related statuses. Therefore, understanding your state’s stance on this issue is crucial.

While federal law doesn’t cover marital status under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 does offer protection for federal government employees.

Definition of Protected Class

In understanding anti-discrimination laws, it’s crucial to grasp the concept of a ‘protected class’. This term refers to groups legally shielded from discrimination or harassment. Essentially, these are specific categories of individuals, such as those distinguished by race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, that receive protection under federal and state laws.

These traits are often immutable or integral to one’s identity. Anti-discrimination laws extend this protection to various areas such as employment, housing, education, and public accommodations. Therefore, if you’re a member of a protected class, it’s illegal for employers, landlords, or others to treat you unfairly based on your class status.

Understanding what constitutes a protected class can better equip you to recognize and confront potential discrimination.

Potential Damages in Discrimination Lawsuits

If you’ve been the victim of discrimination based on a protected class, you may be entitled to various types of damages through a lawsuit. Discrimination lawsuits can result in three main types of damages: monetary, punitive, and equitable.

Monetary damages compensate you for tangible losses like lost pay, benefits, and legal costs. They can also cover emotional distress.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the discriminatory party and deter similar behavior in the future.

Equitable remedies are court orders that seek to rectify the situation, such as ordering your reinstatement in a job.

It’s essential to understand your potential rights to these damages if you’ve faced discrimination. Consult with a legal professional to understand your options fully.

California’s Stance on Marital Status Discrimination

While you may be considering the potential damages from a discrimination lawsuit, it’s equally important to understand the specific laws in your state, like those in California where marital status discrimination is strictly prohibited.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it clear that employers can’t make employment decisions based on marital status. This includes whether you’re married, separated, divorced, widowed, engaged, or even simply planning a marriage.

If you feel you’ve been discriminated against due to your marital status, you can file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department. Remember, knowing your rights and the laws that protect you is your greatest weapon against workplace discrimination. So, don’t hesitate to take action if you believe your rights have been violated.


In conclusion, while marital status isn’t explicitly protected under Title VII or the Civil Service Reform Act, many states recognize it as a protected class. Understanding your state’s laws is crucial in discerning your rights.

Remember, a ‘protected class’ is guarded against discrimination and lawsuits can result in considerable damages. Specifically, California takes a strong stand against marital status discrimination, further securing equal rights for all.

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