Authors: Courtland Merrill and Cory Olson
A venerable Minnesota statute, given new life by a recent decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court, focuses inquiry on characteristics of the individual rather than the class of those affected in weighing claims of marital status discrimination.
This could have significant impact on an employer’s potential liability for what would be permissible actions in other jurisdictions. Under every traditional notion, “discrimination” means the mistreatment of a class of people because of some assumed class characteristic.1 For martial status discrimination, this would typically involve discrimination based on assumed characteristics of people who are married, single, or divorced—that is, people who all share the same marital status (as that term is traditionally understood). A survey of discrimination laws across the country bears this out. While not all states prohibit marital status discrimination, virtually all of those that do limit claims to discrimination based on the traditional understanding of marital status.