A federal district court recently held that an employer’s requirement for an employee to produce a marriage license as a condition to covering his spouse under the employer’s health plan did not run afoul of the prohibition against employment discrimination on the basis of religion under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). The employee claimed that obtaining a marriage license was contrary to his Islamic beliefs. This case is noteworthy because the rejection of the employee’s Title VII claim was based on the fact that a marriage license was required of all employees, regardless of their religious beliefs. Employers that require proof of marriage from only a subset of employees, such as only from employees seeking to cover their same-sex spouses under a group health plan, are at risk for claims of discrimination in violation of Title VII (or similar state laws), which expressly prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, in addition to religion, race, color, national origin, etc. In addition, in common law marriage states, many employers require employees to produce a declaration of an informal marriage (or its equivalent in that particular state). A couple can make this filing with a state agency by registering an already existing informal marriage, provided that all elements for such a marriage in that state have been satisfied. The requirements to establish a common law marriage are different in the various states that recognize such marriages, including Texas.
Abdus-Shahid v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City, Civil No. JFM-15-1972 (D. Md. Sept. 8, 2015).