Perceived marital status should not be considered when deciding who to fire in New York City. A recent New York State Appellate Division decision upholds the concept of perceived marital status discrimination. It tells us why personal information, including the identity of our partners or marital status, can result in employer liability. Managers who fire employees because of the identity of the persons to whom they perceive them to be  married do so at their own risk. Discussions of marital status or children can create employer liability. Considering such information might be similar to regarding or perceiving an employee to be disabled.

Personal relationships and personal issues might best remain personal. However, most of us are human. Many of us share our personal matters with co-workers and managers. The city law case referenced below shows us why managers who lack the discipline to keep personal matters separate and distinct from managerial decisions, can create substantial liability for their employers.

Barring disabilities or serious health conditions, an employer’s perceived marital status of an employee, with or without children, should not be discussed by managers. Unlike requests to accommodate disabilities, there are no accommodations for perceived or actual marital status, with or without children. All employees, regardless of perceived or actual marital status or children, must be similarly treated. Perceived and actual marital status are personal matters. Their discussions are not work related. 

New York’s Supreme Court, Appellate Division First Judicial Department reminds us of this. It tells us that the City’s Human Rights Law needs to be interpreted liberally. If the manager in Morse v. Fidessa Corp., 2018 NY Slip Op 05975 (Sept. 6, 2018) had not considered “personal issues” when firing  financial services industry employee Christopher Morse there would be no case or controversy. Managers who are unable to compartmentalize should avoid discussing personal matters such as marital status or children altogether. Otherwise, they have no business being managers.

Same sex or same gender relationship is never used by the Court. The issue is strictly that the “identity” of the actual or alleged spouse was considered during the termination decision. Had this manager been without knowledge of the identity of Morse’ spouse, he would not have been fired. This manager’s consideration of an employee’s spouse’s identity rightfully expanded marital status discrimination to expressly include perceived marital status discrimination under the City Law.

Any employee’s “married or unmarried” status has absolutely nothing to do with any employee’s performance of their job duties. The takeaway for employers is that “personal matters do not belong in the workplace.”

http://nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2018/2018_05975.htm