Marital Status Discrimination


The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act prohibits employers, employment agencies, labor unions, licensing agencies, and other persons from discriminating against employees, job applicants, or licensing applicants because of their membership in specific protected categories, including marital status.

Marital status is the status of being married, single, divorced, separated, or widowed. Going through a divorce or filing for divorce does not change an individual's marital status from being married.

The statute of limitations for filing a complaint is 300 days from the date the action was taken or the individual was made aware the action was taken.

What actions are covered?

When an individual's marital status motivates the decision related to an employment action or licensing action, it becomes unlawful discrimination.

Specifically, the law prohibits discrimination in:

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any exceptions to discrimination based on marital status?

Yes. An employer's policy or practice prohibiting an employee from directly supervising or being directly supervised by a spouse is not marital status discrimination.

My spouse and I work at the same place and I believe I am being treated differently. Is it marital status discrimination

It could be marital status discrimination if an employment action is taken against you because of your status of being married in general rather than your status of being married to a particular person. The prohibition on discrimination on the basis of marital status does not extend to the particular identity, personal characteristics, or actions of one's spouse. In other words, being treated differently because of your spousal identity is not considered marital status discrimination.

My employer has a non-duplication policy and limits married coworkers to health insurance coverages under one family plan. Is that lawful?

Yes, only if you have a governmental or public employer. A public employer limiting its married co-employees to one family health insurance policy is not engaging in marital status discrimination.

May an employer ask about my marital status?

The law prohibits an inquiry that implies or expresses any limitation because of a protected basis, including marital status.

An employer may make pre-employment inquiries and keep employment records to determine statistically the age, race, color, creed, sex, national origin, ancestry or marital status of applicants and employees. Pre-employment inquiries and employment records which tend directly or indirectly to disclose such information do not constitute unlawful discrimination per se.

I experienced wrongful termination. Can I file a complaint?

Wrongful termination does not necessarily mean that the action is prohibited by the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act. Only if your membership in a specific protected category, such as marital status, motivated the termination, can you file a complaint.

An employment action that is unfair, unequal, or wrong is not enough to file a discrimination complaint. To file a discrimination complaint, you must identify your membership in a specific protected category, such as marital status, as a reason or basis for the discrimination.


How much time do I have to file a complaint?

If you experience discrimination because of your marital status, you may file a complaint with the Equal Rights Division within 300 days of the discriminatory action.

What will the Equal Rights Division do after I file a complaint?

The Equal Rights Division will investigate the complaint, help parties with settlement, if both parties express an interest, and order relief if discrimination is found after a formal hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. You can read more about the complaint process, settlement process, and early referral mediation program.

Where can I find more about the law?


For more information

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