Do Anti-Nepotism Policies Discriminate on the Basis of Marital Status ?
In Owens v. Upper Pinellas Ass'n for Retarded Citizens, 8 F.A.L.R. 438 (Fla. Comm'n on Human Relations 1985), the petitioner was terminated from his position with the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens (UPARC), following his marriage to another UPARC employee.
Apparently, UPARC had an antinepotism policy which precluded related persons from working together.
Owens then filed a petition with the Commission alleging that UPARC unlawfully discharged him based on his marital status.
The Commission ruled that the term "marital status" must be construed broadly "to include one's relationship to one's spouse, rather than narrowly to include only the fact that one is married, single, divorced, or widowed." Id. at 440-41 (relying on Kraft, Inc. v. Minnesota, 284 N.W.2d 386 (Minn. 1979) (holding that anti- nepotism policy discriminates on basis of marital status, the definition of which includes identity or situation of one's spouse)).
It further concluded that absent legislative intent to the contrary, a broad interpretation was consistent with the Legislature's overall purpose in enacting the Civil Rights Act and with the Legislature's stated intent to construe such provisions liberally.
Accordingly, it concluded that UPARC violated section 760.10(1)(a) by discharging Owens on the basis of his marital status. Id. at 445.
It appears, however, that in enacting the antinepotism exclusion to the list of proscribed employment practices under Florida's Civil Rights Act, the Legislature may well have intended to reverse the Commission's ruling in Owens. See Fla. S. Comm. on Com., S.B. 18H (1992) Staff Analysis 1 (May 27, 1992) (on file with comm.) ("The effect of the amendment would be to reverse the Commission's ruling.")