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Is Favoritism in the Workplace Illegal?

Nov 17

Favoritism in the workplace can be terrible for employee morale. When it’s obvious that an employer favors certain employees over others, it can seem like nothing you do will be good enough. This can make coming to work each day difficult and affect the quality of your work. While this is a difficult situation to find yourself in, you might even start to wonder, is favoritism in the workplace legal? Favored employees may receive opportunities that others don’t, which can hurt the careers of you and your coworkers. 

Whether or not workplace favoritism is illegal depends on the specific situation. Although it can be upsetting and unfair, there are many times when favoritism is legal. However, if favoritism is caused by discrimination and harassment, you may need to consult with an employment discrimination lawyer.

Favoritism Rooted in Discrimination

Workplace favoritism can be caused by discrimination. If an employer discriminates against certain protected classes, it could become more noticeable by the way they favor other employees. 

For example, you may notice that your employer only gives opportunities to male employees, and never female employees. Another example would be employees without children receiving far better treatment than those with children. 

Employees who are more qualified for advancement and opportunities may be overlooked if they’re being discriminated against. If you notice that all the employees your employer favors share the same protected characteristics, while others are constantly put at a disadvantage, it could be possible that illegal employment discrimination is occurring.

Favoritism and Harassment

In some cases, employers may provide more advantages to employees who allow the sexual harassment to continue or in return for sexual favors. This type of sexual harassment is known as quid pro quo harassment. 

Employees in this situation may feel like they have no choice but to tolerate these behaviors. No one should think they have to accept sexual harassment at work, and if this has happened to you, it’s time to get help from a sexual harassment lawyer.

Favoritism and Retaliation 

It’s your right as an employee to engage in protected activity, which includes reporting workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Retaliation against employees who choose to exercise this right is illegal. However, retaliation was the most common charge filed with EEOC in the 2020 fiscal year. 

If you and other employees engaged in protected activity, you may have noticed a difference in how you’re treated compared to employees who weren’t involved. Employers may favor employees who did not report them or file a complaint, while those who did are facing adverse employment actions.

Find Out if a New York Employment Discrimination Lawyer Can Help

It’s understandable that sometimes, people will naturally get along better with some than others. Favoritism may not be a recommended employment practice, but in some circumstances, you can’t do something about it. However, if favoritism could be a sign that discrimination and harassment are occurring, you may have options available. If your employer is acting unlawfully, they need to be held accountable, and you deserve to be compensated for any damages they’ve caused. 

Understanding when favoritism could be illegal is difficult, which is why you need legal help. If you believe you’re experiencing employment discrimination, contact Brown Kwon & Lam today.

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