Brief Fact Summary. Appellant brought suit claiming that his employer’s ban on married couples working together violated a Hawaiian Statute prohibiting discrimination based upon marital status.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. State laws prohibiting discrimination based upon marriage are enforced differently in different states. Some find that employee rules prohibiting married couples from working together are valid because rule is based on who the person married rather than the marital status. Other states find that because the marital status prevents the employment such rules violate state statute.
Illuminated another way, when one is queried about one's marital status, the usual and complete answer would be expected to be a choice among married, single, etc,, but would not be expected to include an identification of one's present or former spouse and certainly not the spouse's occupation.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Did the no-spouse rule violate appellant’s rights under the Hawaii discrimination statute?
Held. The Statute prohibits forcing a married couple to choose between marriage and employment absent a statutory exception to the rule.
The employer suggested that they were concerned about the possibility of conflict because appellant’s wife was his superior, and this was the reason for termination. However, the Court believed that the fact of marriage caused the termination.
Many states have determined that such nepotism policies do not violate the prohibition against discrimination due to marital status because the termination results not from marital status but from whom the person married. Other states nave found violations based on the reasoning that it is the marital status that causes termination because by not entering into the marital relationship, or by obtaining a divorce, the disqualification is removed.
Studies have suggested that a flat out prohibition against employees being married violates the prohibition against prohibition, while bona fide occupational qualifications may be upheld. This view supports public policy arguments encouraging marital relationships.
Discussion. Many states have statutes prohibiting discrimination based upon marriage. This Court found that such statutes prohibit rules disqualifying married couples from working together based on public policy.