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Sexual harassment and favoritism

Most people have at least a general idea of what sexual harassment is, and know that it is illegal. But many people do not understand how sexual favoritism may be related to sexual harassment.

What is sexual favoritism?

When benefits and opportunities in the workplace are given to the person who submitted to sexual advances or requests at the expense of those who did not, illegal sexual favoritism likely occurred. In other words, if a qualified employee did not receive a workplace benefit or opportunity because another employee acquiesced to sexual harassment, that is illegal sexual favoritism.

Same categories as sexual harassment

As with other forms of sexual harassment recognized by federal law, sexual favoritism can be categorized as quid pro quo or hostile environment harassment. Quid pro quo refers to an exchange, as when a sexual favor is requested in exchange for some employment benefit or opportunity. In hostile environment harassment, the unwelcome sexual conduct is so pervasive or severe that it creates a hostile work environment.

Paramour exemption

Now, this does not mean that a situation in which your boss’ boyfriend got promoted over you necessarily qualifies as sexual favoritism. This is because of the paramour exemption. An isolated instance of preferential treatment because of a consensual romantic relationship does not qualify as sexual harassment or favoritism. In such as case, everyone other than the paramour was equally disfavored, and the benefit was only given to that specific employee.

Quid pro quo

The example above, where a qualified employee did not receive the employee benefit because the employee received it after granting the request for sexual favors, is quid pro quo sexual favoritism. This is because the employee benefit was conditioned on the sexual conduct.

Hostile environment

If the sexual favor requests become pervasive, the situation may rise to the level of a hostile environment. In these cases, both sexes could have a sexual favoritism lawsuit based on hostile environment.

Of course, this is only a general primer on sexual favoritism. Your experience may be similar or not, but you still may have a case for illegal sexual harassment. The key is to consult a Southern California attorney to get your options.