If your supervisor gives a promotion to his paramour, passing you by even
though you are more qualified, does that constitute gender discrimination
or harassment? No, according to a recent 10
Kenyon Brady Clark began working for Cache Valley Electric Company, an
electrical contracting company, in 1998, and became a project manager
for the Teledata Division in 2006. In his complaint, he alleged that his
supervisor favored another project manager, Melissa Silver, with respect
to job assignments, bonuses, and other working conditions because the
supervisor was romantically involved with her. Clark also claimed that
his supervisor favored females generally, but offered no evidence in support
of that contention.
The court threw out Clark's case. The problem, according to the court,
was that he presented no evidence that women were treated more favorably
than men. Rather, he merely provided evidence that his supervisor favored
only one female employee. The court stated that "favoritism of a
paramour is not gender discrimination…preferential treatment on
the basis of a consensual romantic relationship between a supervisor and
an employee is not gender-based discrimination." It's is not
illegal to favor one employee over another because they have some kind
of special friendship, affinity, or relationship.
Clark also brought a claim for retaliation, which the court discarded as
well. It held that he had failed to show he had a reasonable, good faith
belief that his employer had retaliated against him for opposing an unlawful
employment practice under Title VII. Instead, he was complaining about
favoritism, which is not illegal.
The takeaway: Favoritism towards one employee at the expense of another
is not illegal, even if a sexual relationship exists between the supervisor
and the favored employee. However, if that relationship goes south and
then the favored employee is sexually harassed, it's a whole different ballgame.