Marriage is tough. And with the divorce rate in the United States hovering around fifty percent, unless you work in a monastery, there are likely divorced individuals in your workplace. This week, the New Jersey Supreme Court clarified that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s protections for marital status protect those who are separated, in the process of divorcing, or divorced from discrimination in the workplace.
In a unanimous ruling, the court stated that unless an employer can show that it has a bearing on job performance or the workplace environment (unlikely), no recently uncoupled individuals can be the victim of discrimination or retaliation. This also goes for job applicants.
The case stemmed from an ambulance corps in South Jersey, where a supervisor, who had recently carried on an affair with another individual in the office, went to management and warned them that an “ugly divorce” would soon follow. The corps, taking this as an anticipatory sign that his job performance would suffer, terminated him.
The lesson? First, do not inquire as to marital status of prospective employees. Second, do not make assumptions that divorce proceedings will interfere with an individual’s job performance. Finally, remember that there is no religious exception for this prohibition. Even if divorce is frowned upon in the subjective opinion of the company, this will not hold up in court.
Feel free to contact us with any other questions regarding this topic.