When Favoritism is Discrimination in Disguise
In certain circumstances, playing favorites might be unlawful
It can be frustrating to work for someone who plays favorites.
You know you’re not going to be assigned to that key account because
you don’t play in the boss’s Thursday night poker game. You
would love to take that new training course, but those opportunities generally
only go to people your manager went to college with.
Taken at face value, there’s generally nothing unlawful about favoritism at work.
However, favoritism can also be a mask for other motives that aren’t
lawful. That is, favoritism may sometimes cross the line into unlawful
territory if it is used as an excuse for discrimination or harassment.
Let’s take a look at when favoritism violates the law.
When playing favorites is fine
Favoritism, like nepotism, is not generally unlawful.
That means your boss is perfectly entitled to hire, promote, or offer additional
perks to people simply because he or she likes them – even if those
people are less qualified than other employees. So your manager is not
violating the law by favoring his or her golfing buddies, family members,
or even someone he or she has a crush on, as long as those actions are
motivated by neutral reasons.
However, favoritism becomes unlawful when it’s driven by preference
for a specific race, national origin, age, gender, religion, or other
- You’re continually passed over for promotions that you’re qualified
for, while employees who are members of the boss’s church move up
the corporate ladder.
- Younger employees seem to land all the high-profile accounts because the
boss wants to promote the image of a youthful company.
- A manager only assigns men to projects that require travel to exotic locations.
- All the supervisor positions are staffed by people of a certain national origin.
In other scenarios related to favoritism, a manager may leverage his or
her position as a means to act inappropriately.
For example, a supervisor may give more favorable schedules to female staffers
who flirt with him. In those cases, some female staffers may put up with
unwanted advances from the boss simply to get ahead … while the
woman who refuses to do so finds her career floundering.
Call us for a consultation now
Federal law offers protection from discrimination for a wide range of
protected categories. If you believe that you’ve been unlawfully discriminated against
for any reason, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.