Marital Status Discrimination

I, along with 10 staff in my office, relocated from the UK in November 2001. My employer decided to convert our salaries from UK Net to US Net, rather than from UK Gross to US Gross. Because I am married, the net for net conversion means my salary is considerably less than my single colleagues. ie. although, after taxes my single colleagues and I are TAKING HOME approximately the same amount of money, my salary (gross) is $5,000 less than his. In conclusion the only reason for the difference in salaries between my colleague's and my own is because I am married. To my understanding this is dscrimination based on marital status. Can you please advise me as to whether I have a case? I can provide a more detailed explanation of the issue if necessary. (I will consider a consultation if this is in fact considered discrimination.)

1 answer  |  asked Nov 7, 2001 12:45 PM [EST]  |  applies to New York

Answers (1)

David M. Lira
Unequal Pay Because Married

The New York State Human Rights Law prohibits discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment (including pay) on the basis of marital status. So, there is at least an argument that your employer violated that law when it converted your pay using your net, rather than your gross, UK salary.

However, I am not entirely sure whether you would succeed if you actually brought a case on this issue. The reason I have doubts is because when you say an employer has discriminated against you because of your race, marital status, etc., you are saying that the employer had the intention (the mind set) to disadvantage you because of your race, marital status, or whatever it is. Essentially, the anti-discrimination laws prohibit only intentional conduct.

I tend to doubt that your employer has something against married people. It seems like the employer is trying to save money. That is not illegal discrimination.

Now, there are different types of discrimination cases. A more common type is "disparate treatment." This is the type of case that gets directly into the issue of an employer's mind set.

There is another type of case called a "disparate impact" case. These cases deal with a practice that seems to be neutral but has the effect of disadvantaging a particular class of people more than any other. For example, the practice seems neutral but, at the same time, seems to eliminate most blacks, or most women, or most married people. Maybe your case is a disparate impact case.

But, disparate impact cases generally involve large numbers of people. What disparate impact cases do is essentially prove bad intent through statistics. That is, if a practice has an adverse effect on just one or two people who happen to be in a protected class of people (for example, they are black, or women, or married), the likelihood is that it is only coincidence that causes this apparently pattern of discrimination. As the numbers get bigger, statistically speaking the likely explanation for the pattern shifts from coincidence to intentionality.

In short, I cannot rule out the possibility that what your employer did is intentional discrimination, but, on the basis of information that you have provided, I doubt it. If you have other indications that your employer does not like married people, you may have something. If the practice has adversely affected a fairly substantial number of married people, but has had a neutral or positive effect on a substantial number of single people, you also may have something.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Nov 8, 2001 10:51 AM [EST]

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