Most employees and employers are familiar with sexual harassment. However, many are not aware of sexual favoritism. This is because we tend to focus on those that were the direct victims of unwanted sexual advances, not how it affects the workplace generally.
What is sexual favoritism?
Sexual favoritism, as a term, refers to the “favors” that sexual harassment victims receive as a result of accepting sexual advances. For example, imagine a scenario in which a manager makes sexual advances to one employee, and the employee complies. The manager then rewards this employee with a promotion or a pay raise. This employee may have been the victim of sexual harassment, but some of the negative effects of this harassment are experienced by others in the workplace. That is, everyone else in the office who was qualified for that employment benefit did not receive it as a result of the manager’s sexual favoritism.
Categories of sexual harassment
Federal sexual harassment law splits sexual harassment into two categories: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. A quid pro quo occurs when there is a requested “exchange” of sexual favors for the employment benefit. For hostile work environment, the sexual harassment is so pervasive that it creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
Sexual favoritism as both forms
For quid pro quo, sexual favoritism can be actionable for those employees who did not receive the employment benefit. For hostile workplace sexual favoritism, the entire office may have a case, if it can be shown the illegal conduct was pervasive or became condition of the workplace.
If you have experienced or are experiencing any type of sexual harassment at work, it is okay to contact the EEOC or an attorney for guidance.