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What you need to know about marital status discrimination

by , 25 March 2014
Think you've heard it all when it comes to discrimination? Think again. Believe it or not, but there's something called marital status discrimination and it's quite widespread in many SA companies. Continue reading to find out about this form of discrimination so you can ensure it never happens in your workplace.

What is marital discrimination or discrimination based on marital status?

The Foley Lyman Law Group says that marital status discrimination occurs when an employer treats a worker differently because of the worker's marital status.

The site goes on to say that if an applicant or employee is married, widowed, divorced, single or unmarried with a same-sex or opposite-sex partner and you (the employer) use that information in making decisions about hiring, benefits, promotions, discipline or termination, it's considered marital status discrimination.

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Be warned: Marital discrimination is illegal

Experts at FSP Business say that the South African Constitution as well as several labour laws prohibits discrimination based on marital status. And you must ensure it doesn't happen in your workplace.

How can you avoid marital discrimination?

The Foley Lyman Law Group says discriminatory practices relating to someone's marital status can begin with the illegal questioning of a job applicant.

This includes asking questions such as: 'Are you married?' 'Do you have a family?' 'What's your maiden name?' 'Are you pregnant?' or 'Do you plan to have a family?'

These questions are discriminatory. So avoid asking them if you want to steer clear of being accused of marital discrimination.

Small Business Chron echoes the same sentiments.

The site says 'the best way to prevent interview questions that intentionally or inadvertently seek non job-related information is to create structured interview questions for recruiters and hiring managers. You must also ensure that recruiters are well versed in appropriate interview questions.'

The bottom line is that an employee's marital status shouldn't matter in the workplace. If you base work decisions on this factor, you're opening yourself to marital discrimination charges. Is that a risk you're prepared to take?

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