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Favoritism and discrimination are two very similar ideas that favoritism is often mistaken as discrimination. In certain situations, the difference is greater, such as the difference between sexual discrimination vs. sexual favoritism. So what’s the difference between the two?
One appellate court distinguished the two with the following:
“Title VII does not, however, prevent employers from favoring employees because of personal relationships. Whether the employer grants employment perks to an employee because she is a protegé, an old friend, a close relative or a love interest, that special treatment is permissible as long as it is not based on an impermissible classification.”
Playing sexual favorites in the office is never a good idea. It can lead to gossip and other conflicts of interest. Say a relationship develops in the workplace and ends; it could lead to blackmail or extortion.
Instead of forbidding workplace relationships, use them as an opportunity to teach your workers about your company’s anti-harassment policy and program. Here are some tips when addressing this topic with your workers:
By focusing on conduct (or misconduct) instead of the actual relationship, you can provide your workers the tools to avoid potential problems that can arise from these kinds of relationships and avoid any potential legal problems and the expenses that would be associated with them.