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Marital status discrimination in job interviews

On Behalf of | Sep 7, 2023 | Discrimination, Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination does not limit itself to people’s age, color, gender or disability; work applicants also encounter unfair treatment because they are single, married, divorced or have plans to marry. Unless it is done for a legitimate business purpose, an employer should not concern itself with a candidate’s personal relationships.

In California, marital status is a protected class, meaning it is unlawful for employers to use an employee or job applicant’s marital status as a factor in work-related decisions. This includes decisions in hiring, promotion, compensation, or termination.

Signs of marital status discrimination during the hiring process

Unfortunately, some hiring managers are unable to break their biases during the interview process. Many companies are hesitant to hire married or engaged women because they assume that these applicants will become pregnant and take maternity leave. Additionally, there are employers who have reservations about hiring a person who is in a same-sex marriage.

Here are some potential signs of marital status discrimination:

  • Asking only female applicants about their marital status
  • Asking applicants about their plans to get married or have children
  • Asking probing questions or making inappropriate comments to applicants in LGBTQ+ marriages

Hiring managers or recruitment staff should only be asking questions that are related to the job. Sometimes, these questions can be so casual that the applicant does not easily see it as discrimination. A prospective employer might congratulate and ask a candidate about their engagement but later use that information to disqualify them from being hired.

It can be difficult for candidates to prove marital status discrimination because employers often do not disclose their reasons for not hiring an individual. To prove discrimination, candidates must also show that their experience and performance were in line with the company’s criteria and that other applicants with a different marital were given preferential treatment.

When job seekers are aware of their rights, it can help them spot prejudice. If a candidate feels they were treated unfairly during the hiring or recruitment process, they may file a complaint with the appropriate agency or seek legal counsel for help.