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Is Marital Status a Protected Class in 2024?

In the context of United States employment and anti-discrimination laws, marital status is not typically regarded as a protected class. Federal anti-discrimination laws focus on protecting individuals from discrimination based primarily on race, color, national origin, sex, religion, disability, and age.
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What is Marital Status?

Marital status is defined as the legal state of being married, single, separated, divorced, or widowed. It describes a person's current relationship with their significant other. Marital status can have various implications in legal, social, and financial settings.

Types of Marital Status

The common categories of marital status include:

  • Single - A person who has never been married or is not currently married.
  • Married - A person who has entered into a legal marriage with a spouse.
  • Separated - A person who is married but living apart from their spouse.
  • Divorced - A person whose marriage has been legally dissolved through divorce.
  • Widowed - A person whose spouse has died, leaving them unmarried.
  • Domestic Partnership or Civil Union - In certain states, people in committed relationships may enter into domestic partnerships or civil unions, which can provide legal benefits similar to marriage.

What is a Protected Class?

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notice, a protected class is defined as a group of people who are legally safeguarded from discrimination and unequal treatment under U.S. anti-discrimination laws [1].

These laws are designed to prevent discrimination based on characteristics that have been associated with prejudice and bias in the past. The protection covers employment, housing, education, public accommodations, and other areas of life.

Protected Classes List

Common protected classes under U.S. federal law include:

  • Race and Color - Discrimination based on race or color is banned under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • National Origin - It is illegal to discriminate against people based on their national origin or ancestry.
  • Religion - People are protected from discrimination based on their religious beliefs or practices.
  • Sex/Gender - Discrimination based on sex, gender, or pregnancy is illegal.
  • Disability - People with disabilities are protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Age - The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits discrimination against people over the age of 40.
  • Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity - Certain states have laws protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Veteran Status - U.S. military veterans are protected from discrimination based on their status as veterans.
  • Genetic Information - The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) prohibits discrimination based on genetic information.
  • Citizenship and Immigration Status - Discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status is illegal in most states.

Marital Status Discrimination

While marital status is not currently considered to be a federally protected class in the context of anti-discrimination laws, certain states may offer protection against discrimination based on marital status, and marital status can have legal implications in inheritance, taxes, family law, and other similar matters.

It's important to understand that societal attitudes toward marital status can vary significantly by jurisdiction, and legal recognition of relationships may differ in different locations. Understanding the legal implications of marital statuses is important in various aspects of life, including employment, healthcare, and family matters.

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