Civil Rights

eHarmony Settles Same Sex Class Action Lawsuit

Same-sex marriages are in the news a lot, but first things first. Before the marriage comes finding a partner, dating, etc., right? A class action lawsuit was recently settled, perhaps making it easier for people to find same-sex partners.

eHarmony in Court is an online dating and match-making service. It's been around since 2000, and undoubtedly you've seen or heard its commercials. It claims to have special, scientifically backed compatibility tools to help singles find Mr. or Mrs. Right.

According to several gay, lesbian, and bi-sexual California residents, though, eHarmony wasn't treating everyone fairly. A class action lawsuit claimed that the web site discriminated against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people looking for partners.

It wasn't eHarmony's first time in court, either. To settle another lawsuit filed by New Jersey's attorney general, eHarmony created a new web site and service called Compatible Partners. It's designed specifically for gays and lesbians.

eHarmony's settlement of the California lawsuit takes things a step further. The company has agreed to do several things to make its web sites "more welcoming to people who seek same-sex matches," such as:

  • Giving users the option to select "man seeking man" or "woman seeking woman" from a drop-down menu on the homepage
  • Clearly identifying Compatible Partners as a service "Brought to you by eHarmony"
  • Displaying eHarmony's trademark logo on the Compatible Partners web site
  • Offering a single-subscription rate for bisexual users looking for either same-sex or opposite-sex matches

Also, eHarmony is creating a $2 million settlement fund. At least $500,000 of it is for paying damages to the members of the class action lawsuit.

What You Can Do

Why was eHarmony sued in California and New Jersey? Because those states have broad anti-discrimination laws. Federal and most state laws make it illegal to discriminate against people based upon their sex or gender when it comes to jobs and employment.

California and New Jersey go much further. Those states make it illegal for businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation. This covers restaurants, hotels, and online retailers and service providers, like eHarmony, who operate or offer their services within those states.

If you think a company or business is discriminating based upon sexual orientation, you should ask it to stop the discrimination. If that doesn't work:

  • File a complaint with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) and your state's attorney general
  • Check the laws in your state to see if businesses are barred from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Or, talk to an attorney about it
  • If your state doesn't have such a law, contact your state lawmakers about passing one in your state

Questions For Your Attorney

  • Does our state make it illegal for businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation?
  • I live in California but had no idea about the lawsuit against eHarmony. Is there any way i can get involved in the case now? Can I file my own lawsuit?
  • I got a notice in the mail asking if I want to join a class action lawsuit. What should I do? What happens if I don't join the suit?
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