Lipsky Lowe LLP discusses whether or not your employer can discriminate against you if you are divorced.

Can My Employer Discriminate Against Me If I’m Divorced?

By Douglas Lipsky

Although divorce rates have declined over the past decade, marital breakups are still common. As anyone who has been through a divorce can attest, it reaches every aspect of life; however, divorce should never impact an individual’s ability to secure or retain employment. In fact, discriminating against a divorced woman or man is an unlawful form of marital discrimination in New York. 

What is marital status discrimination? 

Employment discrimination based on marital status can occur at any point in the employment phase. A potential employer may ask whether you are married during a job interview, for example, or refuse to offer you a job because you are divorced. 

In any event, discrimination against divorced individuals is considered an unlawful form of employment discrimination under the New York City and New York State Human Rights Laws, both of which include marital status as a protected class. 

Examples of marital status discrimination include:

  • Passing a divorced employee over for a promotion in favor of a less qualified individual or a childless employee
  • Making offensive comments about a divorced employee that create a hostile work environment
  • Taking an adverse employment action against a divorced employee (e.g. demotion, reassignment, termination)
  • Demanding stringent work schedules that make it difficult for a divorced parent to meet childcare responsibilities
  • Excluding single parents from hiring profiles
  • Retaliating against employees who complain about marital status discrimination in the workplace

How to Prove Marital Discrimination

This form of discrimination is often very subtle since employers rarely state that they refused to hire a person or promote an employee because he or she was divorced. However, an employer that consistently hires single applicants or only promotes married men may be held liable for marital status discrimination.

The Takeaway 

Divorce is a difficult transition that can be compounded by marital status discrimination. The best way to protect your rights is to work with the right employment discrimination lawyer. Your attorney can assess whether you have a valid claim and explore the legal remedies that may be available to you. If you were fired after a divorce, for example, you may be entitled to reinstatement and/or damages such as back pay, lost benefits, attorney fees and legal costs. While employers typically have an unfair advantage over aggrieved employees, a skilled attorney can level the playing field and help to enforce your rights.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.