BEVERLY HILLS, CA, March 30, 2006 – A man separated from his wife but not quite divorced is suing the popular online matchmaker eHarmony for refusing to help him find a date.
John Claassen, a 36-year-old lawyer from Emeryville, filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court alleging eHarmony abridged his civil rights by refusing to match him up. He said the company, which has an “unmarried only” policy, broke state law by discriminating against him based on his marital status.
Claassen, who is seeking $12,000 in civil penalties, said Monday he expects his divorce to be official in about two months, but that he shouldn’t have to wait until then to use eHarmony. It should be up to would-be dates to decide whether to pass him over because he is technically still married, he said.
“I think ultimately California civil rights laws leave those sorts of choices to the individual rather than to business establishments,” he said. “Any user can decide who they’re looking for, and if they want to make a choice based on marital status, I don’t see why they can’t do that.”
A spokesman for Pasadena-based eHarmony did not immediately return a telephone call for comment on the lawsuit.
An e-mail Claassen said he received from the company’s customer service department explained that “we have to create rules based on what’s best for most people, most of the time.” It says eHarmony is in the business of matching singles “free of relationship commitments.”
The stance is based on customer surveys that show the vast majority of users want their matches to be divorced, widowed or never married at all, according to the company. Claassen would be welcome to join “once your divorce is final,” the e-mail stated.
EHarmony’s policy against still-wed singles is at odds with some other online dating services. Match.com allows users to state in their online profiles whether they were never married, are widowed, currently separated or divorced.
Claassen and his wife of eight years separated in May, and he expects the divorce to be final within two months.
“I just think I’ve got a right as an individual trying to recover from something that wasn’t the high point of my life,” Claassen said in a telephone interview Monday. “If that includes dating now, why can’t I?”
– provided by DatingServices-Online, 30 March 2006