Can a company refuse to hire me if my husband works for them?

I am searching for a job, my husband asked around he is a salesman in a winery. His manager gave me an interview and wanted to hire me as a market place worker making

sandwiches, selling olive oil, etc. but the wife of the owner said she is just putting together a policy so couples, married or not, cannot work for them. The manager told me I would have been a great fit for the job. Is it legal to refuse to hire me because my husband works in a total

different department in the company?

Asked on April 21, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that most employment is what is known as "at will". This means that an employee can set the terms of employment much as it sees fit. This includes who to hire and why. This holds true unless this action violates company policy, a union agreement or constitues some form of legally actionable discrimintion. Such discrimination is based on gender, race, religion, nationality, disability, age (over 40), etc. However, marital discrimination does not exist.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, it is completely legal. Employers are completely free to decide who to hire, unless they are violating workplace or employment discrimination laws and discriminating against a protected category or class or persons. However, no laws protect spouses from "discrimination": an employer is free to not hire the spouse of an existing employee and, in fact, this is a fairly common restriction. (Employers worry that the spouses will either 1) pay more attention to each other than to their jobs; or conversely 2) if there is any marital/domestic strife or arguments, it will spill over into work.)

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