Marital Status Discrimination Based on Actions of a Spouse

In National Industries, Inc. v. Commission on Human Relations, 527 So. 2d 894 (Fla. 5th DCA 1988), Sharon Morand filed a complaint with the Commission based on marital status discrimination after she was fired by her employer, National Industries, because of actions by her spouse, Robert Morand, a former employee of the same employer. The Commission found that Sharon had stated a cause of action for marital status discrimination. In doing so, it relied on its decision in Owens v. Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens, 8 F.A.L.R. 438 (Fla. Comm'n. on Human Relations 1985), which broadly interpreted the term "marital status" to include the identity of the individual's spouse. The Fifth District, however, reversed the ruling, holding that the Commission's interpretation of section 760.10 was erroneous. National Industries, 527 So. 2d at 897. The district court noted that Owens involved a dispute over an antinepotism policy, which was distinguishable from the situation involving Sharon Morand, who was fired not because of her marital status, but because the employer wanted to keep her husband off the premises. Id. In a footnote, but without deciding the issue, the district court recognized the Commission's adherence to a broad definition of the term "marital status," but noted that even under a broad definition of the term, the case did not fall within the scope of "marital status" discrimination. See National Industries, Inc., 527 So. 2d at 897 n.1 (relying on Cybyske v. Independent School District No. 196, 347 N.W.2d 256 (Minn. 1984) (holding that identity of spouse is factor to consider but dismissing cause of action based on marital status discrimination where institution of marriage not directly affected by employer's action)). Consequently, the district court did not determine in National Industries whether the term "marital status" includes the identity of one's spouse or merely the state of being married or unmarried.