Can my employer discriminate against me because of who I am married to?

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Can my employer discriminate against me because of who I am married to?

My wife has done our company’s website for 6 years and when it became time to renew the website’s contract my employer refused to sign the new contract causing the website to disappear. My employer is blaming me for not interfering with my wife’s company’s business and has cut my pay 8% so he can fund a new website from someone else and is using my pay to fund it and has threatened me with termination several times. I asked if anyone else took a pay cut and he wouldn’t tell me.

Asked on April 6, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The law allows employers to  "discriminate" against employees--to treat them differently, or, frankly, unfairly--so long as they not doing so on the basis of one of a small number of specifically protected categories. For example, under federal law, an employer may not treat an employee worse because of his or her race, sex, religion, age ove 40, or disability.

However, neither federal nor state law prohibits an employer from treating an employee worse because of who his wife is, when the employer's issue with the wife is based on past business dealings between the employer and the wife. And if you do not have an employment contract setting or guarantying your wage, your employer is generally free to reduce it at will, unless the reduction is due to one of those few, specifically protected categories discussed above.


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