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The Differences Between Sexual Favoritism & Sexual Harassment

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  • 0:00 Sexual Favoritism Vs.…
  • 1:11 Legality of Sexual Favoritism
  • 1:43 When It's Not Legal
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley
Sometimes life is not fair and this can often be said of workplace sexual favoritism. In this lesson, you'll learn the difference between sexual harassment and sexual favoritism. You'll also learn when sexual favoritism is tolerated and when it is not.

Sexual Favoritism vs. Sexual Harassment

Rebecca is quite upset. She just lost a promotion to Marcy, even though Marcy has less education and experience. Adding injury to insult, Rebecca discovers that Marcy has been dating Tom, who happens to be the person at the company who made the promotion decision, passing over Rebecca for his girlfriend.

The best description of her situation is one of sexual favoritism. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual favoritism is ''where employment opportunities or benefits are granted because of an individual's submission to the employer's sexual advances or requests for sexual favors...'' Sexual harassment, on the other hand, involves ''unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature''. So what's the difference?

The key distinction between sexual favoritism and sexual harassment is consent. In sexual favoritism, both employees have freely consented to engage in the sexual activities. Whereas, sexual harassment occurs when the sexual activity is unwelcome by one of the parties.

Legality of Sexual Favoritism

So does Rebecca have a case against her employer based on sexual favoritism? Whether sexual favoritism is actionable under federal anti-discrimination law depends on the facts and circumstances. Not all instances of sexual favoritism violate the law. Generally speaking, the law will not stop isolated incidents of sexual favoritism involving consensual sexual relationships. Sexual favoritism may be unfair, but the law doesn't protect you against every type of unfairness at work.

When It's Not Legal

Nevertheless, under certain circumstances, an employee may bring a claim of sex discrimination based upon sexual favoritism in two situations. Let's take a quick look at each.

Rebecca could have a claim if Marcy was coerced by Tom to enter into the sexual relationship in order to receive the promotion denied Rebecca, which, of course, would constitute sexual harassment. Keep in mind, it's not Rebecca that is being sexually harassed, but rather Marcy. Rebecca does not have a sexual harassment claim because she's not the one being harassed. However, since entering into a sexual relation was a condition for the job benefit, Rebecca could argue she's a victim of sex discrimination as such a condition would not be imposed on men (assuming, of course, Tom was not interested in men).

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