Don’t Fire An Employee Because Of A Jealous Spouse

Recently, a New York State Court of Appeals restored a gender discrimination case against a wellness clinic. Both defendants were co-owners of the establishment and were husband and wife. The husband had hired the plaintiff in the case as a massage therapist and yoga instructor.  The husband acted as the plaintiff’s supervisor and had a professional relationship during her tenure.  However, he told Plaintiff that his wife was jealous because she was “too cute.”

Sometime after, defendant’s wife and co-owner of the establishment sent plaintiff threatening text messages stating that she should stay away from her husband and was no longer welcomed to the clinic. The next day, the husband sent plaintiff an e-mail, indicating that her status as an employee was terminated. Furthermore, the email notified plaintiff that if she returned to the establishment the police would be called.

Plaintiff commenced an action against the husband and wife for gender discrimination. Under the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law, an employer is forbidden from taking action against an employee for reasons related to sex or gender.

The plaintiff initiated an appeal after the lower court dismissed her claims for gender discrimination on the ground that there was not sufficient support for her claims. Specifically, the court reasoned that the plaintiff had to show that she was part of a protected class; however, the lower court concluded that attractive women were not a protected class.

On appeal, the court found that the factor motivating the defendant’s termination of plaintiff was her sexual attractiveness, which was unlawful even if his decision to terminate plaintiff’s employment was due to his wife’s jealousy.  According to the court of appeals, other cases have permitted an individual to fire an employee due to a jealous spouse.  However, all of the existing cases involved an employee and employer having an ongoing sexual relationship.  Due to this, the employer formed a basis for termination.

Navigating the complexities of discrimination in the workplace can be difficult. It is important that individuals who have faced employment discrimination seek the guidance of an experienced employment discrimination lawyer. Steven Sack, “The Employee’s Lawyer,” has represented individuals alleging unfair employee discrimination for more than 37 years. Mr. Sack is knowledgeable in all aspects of employment law and fights zealously on behalf of his clients. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call Steven Mitchell Sack at (917) 371-8000 or email him at sms@stevensack.com.

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