The Florida Civil Rights Act prohibits marital status discrimination in employment. i.e. discrimination based on the state of being married, single, divorced or separated. What it does not do is prohibit discrimination based on the identity or actions of one's spouse.

That's a pretty simple concept, and it's been the clearly established law in Florida since 2000, when the Florida Supreme Court issued its opinion in Donato v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co., 767 So.2d 1146, 1155 (Fla. 2000).

But that didn't prevent the Miami-Dade County Equal Opportunity Board recently from ruling in favor of Hilda Fish, whose employment with Industrial Affiliates, Ltd. was terminated because she married Mr. Fish, one of the operating partners of the business. The MDEOB ruled in favor of Ms. Fish even though the employer had replaced her with another married woman, which seemingly proves that it had no problem with the fact that Ms. Fish was married.

Fortunately for the employer, the Third District Court of Appeals corrected the error, holding that the MDEOB's decision "represents a clear departure from the essential requirements of the law resulting in a miscarriage of justice and is therefore quashed." In a terse decision, the court noted that the lower court, an appellate panel from the Miami-Dade Circuit Court, had denied review "for reasons unknown." It makes you wonder, did the MDEOB and the circuit court panel read Donato?

In any event, the lesson of the Fish decision for Florida employers is clear. It is perfectly legal to have an anti-nepotism policy that prohibits the employment of relatives or spouses of employees, and to take action against spouses whose employment runs afoul of this policy. As Donato makes clear, discriminating against an employee because of the actions or identity of the employee's spouse is legal. It is only the state of being married, single, divorced or separated that Florida's ban on marital status discrimination protects against.