Q: Can We Ask an Employee Their Marital Status?
A: Asking an employee's marital status after they're hired is not in itself prohibited. After all, this question is already asked on the Form W-4 that employees complete upon hire.
While there is no federal law that prohibits employers from asking an employee's marital status, some states have made marital status a protected class. This means that using the information in any employment decision would be illegal. Additionally, even in states where marital status is not expressly protected, asking the question could imply – rightly or wrongly – that you intend to use the information to discriminate based on some other protected class or characteristic, such as pregnancy, sexual orientation, or use of FMLA.
I recommend not asking this question unless there is a bona fide reason to do so. Generally these inquiries should be for the employee's benefit, such as for insurance and benefits administration purposes or for the completion of tax documents.
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