In some workplaces in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, management might clearly favor specific employees over others. This can make the workplace difficult for other employees. Favoritism occurs when managers give benefits to employees based on who they like instead of their performance. Working for a company that allows favoritism can be frustrating for workers. Favoritism is a bad management practice because it can hurt employee morale and lead to higher turnover rates. Workers whose good performance is unrecognized might decide to move on to find better opportunities.
While favoritism is evidence of poor management, it may or may not be illegal. Whether favoritism in your workplace is illegal depends on the motivations of the managers for favoring certain employees while disfavoring others. General unfairness and bad management are not prohibited by the law. When favoritism crosses the line into illegal behavior, however, the negatively affected workers may have grounds to file lawsuits. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler can help you to understand the legal merits of your potential claim. Here is some general information to help you to decide whether what is happening in your workplace might be illegal.
When is workplace favoritism legal?
Favoritism in the workplace might be distasteful, but it is not illegal in some cases. When favoritism results because of things like a worker’s personality or work ethic, it is not illegal. Just like in other settings, some people simply like each other better than others. This can result in workplace favoritism that is not illegal.
Some of the examples of legal workplace favoritism include the following:
- Establishing friendships with workers outside of work and then favoring them in the workplace
- Favoritism of people who share similar interests
- Treating an employee better because of his or her social skills even if his or her work performance is not great
When favoritism is based on unlawful discrimination
Favoritism at work can be illegal when a manager favors some workers while disfavoring others because of a protected characteristic. For example, if a manager disfavors workers based on their sexual orientations, races, genders, religions, disabilities, national origins, or other protected characteristics, the favoritism that they show to workers without those characteristics may be illegal discrimination. If your employer only gives good work assignments to white males, for example, you might have grounds to file a discrimination claim against your employer.
Favoritism based on sexual harassment
Favoritism at work sometimes constitutes illegal sexual harassment. For example, if a manager at your work gives favors to certain employees because they give in to his or her sexual advances, it is unlawful sexual harassment. The employees who acquiesce to the sexual advances may have grounds to file sexual harassment claims, and the workers who suffered because of the sexual harassment might also have grounds to file sexual harassment claims. The workers who are not the direct targets of the harassment may have valid claims because of the negative impact on their job opportunities.
Favoritism and retaliation
In some cases, favoritism at work might violate laws against illegal retaliation. For instance, if your manager gives everyone a raise except you because you took FMLA leave, you might have a valid retaliation claim. Disfavoring an employee because he or she filed a discrimination or harassment charge is likewise illegal. Workers have rights against retaliation when it is based on their exercising their legal rights.
Favoritism in violation of contracts or company policies
In some cases, workplace favoritism might violate a company’s policies or an employment contract. If you work under an employment contract or have a handbook that provides a method for determining raises and promotions, managers who break those rules could lead to the company being sued. Some courts have found that company policies and employee handbooks create contracts. Employers must follow contractual provisions or risk breach of contract lawsuits.
Similarly, employment contracts may also provide grounds for breach of contract lawsuits. For example, if your contract states that you can only be terminated for cause, you might have grounds to file a lawsuit if your employer fires you to make room for a manager’s friend.
Contact Swartz Swidler
Workplace favoritism can make your job more difficult. If you believe that your employer has engaged in favoritism in the workplace based on an illegal reason, you might benefit from talking to an employment law attorney at Swartz Swidler. An attorney might examine the facts and circumstances of what occurred to determine whether the favoritism at your job was illegal. If it was based on an unlawful reason, your lawyer might help you to gather evidence and file a claim against your employer. Contact us today to request a consultation by calling us at 856.685.7420.