According to recent data from the United States Bureau of Labor
Statistics, unmarried employees make up more than 42 percent of the nations workforce. And,
according to data released by the Census Bureau on August 15, 2006, 50.3
percent of the nationís households are headed by unmarried adults.
Despite these large numbers, unmarried workers are often treated
unfairly by public employers, private companies, and even unions.
Disgruntled workers often have no legal recourse since,
like most states, federal law does not prohibit marital status discrimination in
employment. Grievance procedures are often of little use to unionized workers since many
bargaining agreements are silent on this issue.
Is there a conspiracy against unmarried workers by
employers, unions, and government officials? Not really.
Its just that unmarried employees have been overlooked when
economic pie is being sliced in corporate board rooms or at collective bargaining tables. It is easy
to overlook people who are not politically organized.
But times are changing. And unmarried
Americans are beginning to
Single mothers and gay couples have probably complained the
loudest, and as a result, new programs have been instituted to meet their needs. Child
care, flex-time, and domestic partner benefits are examples.
The rallying cry has been "equal pay for equal
work" and "respect for diversity." But these principles are not being
applied across the board so that all workers are treated equally regardless of their
marital or family status.
Domestic partnership benefits programs should apply to same and opposite sex couples who meet
eligibility criteria. A single worker caring for a blood relative should be able to
designate that person as a benefits beneficiary.
But the workers who are really being short changed are the
"solo singles" who do not have a spouse, domestic partner, or dependent
children. Their reduced benefits package is, in effect, forcing them to subsidize the
benefits of married couples and parents with children. Another
segment of the workforce which is not being treated equally, especially
in terms of benefits compensation, is that of unmarried workers who have
an adult child living with them.
Because these issues are of great concern to unmarried
workers, we have created a Singles-Friendly Workplace section of our
online Library of Unmarried America.
Our research has shown that unmarried
employees generally make
less money than married workers, have a higher unemployment rate, and receive less
benefits compensation too. Tell us if we have overlooked any problems single workers
experience. We are willing to incorporate other issues into this section
of the website.