You’re poly! You’re cutting edge with the open lifestyle of the future. You have pictures of your loves in your cubicle and you wave that poly flag every chance you get.
Then you get a pink slip.
Was it your lifestyle? Not to put too fine a point on it, can they legally do that?
The answer, as always, is “It depends”.1 If you’re employed “at will”, an employer does not have to show cause to fire you. This means, that yeppers, you can be fired for being openly poly, it’s just that they won’t say that’s why. Find out if you’re an at will employee (if you work in the US, chances are good you are). Proof of discrimination becomes problematic here.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes discrimination on the basis of religion, sex, race, color, or national origin illegal. I will point out that fundamentalist Mormons have been notoriously unlucky in attempting to use religion as a defense for plural marriage choices, so this is hardly iron-clad. But, do read the text of the Act carefully. It really doesn’t deal with who you’re forming relationships with!
I keep repeating that poly people really need to know their local laws. It’s important. It’s amazing what you can get tripped up on through ignorance. Beware of wishful thinking in this. If it’s something with genuinely high stakes, pony up the money and talk to a local lawyer.
Seventeen states do have laws protecting employment based on sexual orientation. You can click on the link to find out what the laws are in your state. I’ve yet to find any legal precedence saying that polyamory is considered a sexual orientation, however. Legally, it’s a dark gray area. I say dark because there are states2 that do have laws against adultery. If you’re married and actively poly, you might very well be breaking the law in your area.3
I’m not trying to scare anyone here, nor am I trying to be gloom and doom. I just want people to know their local laws before they decide whether or not to be “out”. I choose to be, and genuinely think it’s safer in the long run.
I just don’t want to choose for you.
1I am not a lawyer. For more detailed information it is important to consult a lawyer in your jurisdiction!
2And other legal jurisdictions like the US Military
3And legally, it’s adultery whether or not your spouse is consenting. It’s that extra-martial sex is happening at all, not how your spouse feels about it!
13 thoughts on “What Can They Do to Me?”
Is there a map anywhere that shows what locations in the US still have adultery laws?
I’m sorry to say I cannot find a state by state analysis of adultery laws that is current. Most states have their legal codes published online these days. Go to your state’s website and do a search on adultery, would be my advice.
FWIW, there’s a handy explanation of how the US military views adultery here: http://usmilitary.about.com/od/justicelawlegislation/a/adultery.htm
As discussed there, adultery on its own isn’t always a prosecutable offense; it has to be ‘to the prejudice of good order and discipline or… of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces’.
Michigan for one protects against discrimination on the basis of “marital status,” but I think that’s even more sketchy when applied to poly than “sexual orientation.”
Actually, the more I think about, the more I think the “family status” protection may apply only to housing. I’ll try to check the Wall of Law at work tomorrow (my company actually has it in an obvious place, per the law!).
It’s worse than that in NC. Any sex outside of marriage is a crime.
They don’t prosecute very often, but it has been used to fire a state employee who was living with her boyfriend and has been used to deny compensation in domestic violence cases.
Basically, what I remember when I looked into possibly suing an employer for something else, is that if you’re not and it’s not about one of the “protected” categories, you can forget it, even if you have proof. It sucks, but there it is.
Google is your friend.
While not a map of state laws, a search for the three words [ adultery law state ] turned up http://christianparty.net/adulterylaws.htm which has a lot of interesting information….. But I notice that Michigan is absent.
searching for [ adultery law michigan ] turns up two excerpts of note:
First, http://www.sherlockpi.com/infidelity-cases/michigan-adultery-law.php — a law that has been on the books since 1931, making adultery a felony.
Second, a court ruling from this January ( http://www.shortnews.com/start.cfm?id=59535 ) held that the way a recent sex-crime law was written (I don’t have a link for it), anyone convicted of adultery would be guilty of a 1st-degree sex crime, and at a minimum have to register as a sex-offender, and at a maximum receive a sentence of life in prison.
Here’s a helpful link for people with (or trying to get) security clearances:
I am a lawyer and would be happy to clear up a couple of points.
First, yes, an ‘at will’ employee may be fired, or conversely may quit, at any time, and may be fired for good cause or for no cause, but not for ‘bad cause.’ Don’t get excited that your notion of ‘bad cause’ is the same as everyone else’s. Bad cause means the list of protected classes such as age, sex, religion, creed, national origin or disability since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA).
If you are a contractual employee, then you have to follow the terms of the contract, which may say pretty much anything from moral turpitude to ’employee may not wear turtleneck sweaters on the 3rd Thursday of the month.’
The second issue is about the illegality of adultery. Yes, the laws are on the books, but that is not the ultimate answer of what is ‘legal’. There is some confusion now as to if there is or isn’t a constitutional protection against prosecution for private sexual acts. The case of Lawrence v. Texas (2003) (for an interesting discussion on that case, read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_v._Texas ) basically gave constitutional protection for homosexual sex acts because it was done in the privacy of the bedroom. By extension, adulterous acts should likewise be covered. But really don’t worry, nobody gets prosecuted unless you are in the military.
Have US trade unions been helpful in these cases? In a dispute with my employer my union would be my first point of call.
This another reason to live below your means and save up money: so you’ll have freedom to walk away from a bad job or let ’em fire you. I told my kids early, “You can have things, or you have have freedom. You can’t have both.”
Actually, I think employers either want you or they don’t. If they want you, they won’t fire you. (They might just ask you to put the triad picture in a drawer so as not to cause talk.) If they don’t want you, and are waiting for an excuse, you’re already toast and should be looking for another job now.
In the end (unless you’ve been real bad with your finances), I say you’re better off out from under any organization that would ax you for being poly.
“If you put yourself beneath an asshole, you will be shit on. Do not be surprised. This is the normal function of assholes.”