Can you fire someone for getting divorced? Once court says no.

In this unanimous 6-0 decision on Tuesday, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that employers cannot let any of the following motivate an employment decision:

  • being single;
  • getting engaged;
  • marriage;
  • a break up;
  • divorce; or
  • recently widowed

All of this constitutes discrimination based on “marital status” under New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination If you operate a business in NJ, hopefully, you’re not the type to let relationship-related stereotypes impact your decisions to hire, fire, and discipline. Employers in other states and cities with broad anti-discrimination laws covering marital status should use this decision as a wake-up call too.

For those of you with anti-nepotism policies, fear not. Even with this recent NJ Supreme Court decision, they’re still ok. Just, enforce them evenly without focusing on marital status or any other protected class. South Jersey businesses are also free to tease, censure, and otherwise make the lives miserable of your employees who root for the Yankees and Mets.

Under federal law, “marital status” is not a protected class. However, certain stereotypes related to the institution of marriage — maybe, based on strong views about sexual orientation — could land you in hot water. The EEOC views discrimination based on sexual orientation as sex discrimination. And sex discrimination violates Title VII.

However, federally, feel free to harass Dallas Cowboys fans, whether bandwagon or die hard. They all stink — except my paying clients; they’re the best — and they deserve the grief.

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