Are workplace favoritism and nepotism the same as discrimination?
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Are workplace favoritism and nepotism the same as discrimination?

On Behalf of | Sep 9, 2022 | Discrimination

Few things are as frustrating as seeing some people get better treatment than others in the workplace. While employer favoritism and nepotism are morally wrong, it is only illegal in certain circumstances.

Employers typically have the freedom to run their operations how they like unless it violates the law. Unfortunately, this might mean that only one or a handful of employees obtain the best treatment from your boss.

When is favoritism unlawful?

It is illegal for a government office, agency or employer to display favoritism toward one group or person. For example, governments must fill civil service positions by choosing the candidate best suited for the job — not just their relatives and friends of those already working there, making nepotism unlawful.

It is also against the law for any private and government employer to treat certain people differently from employees belonging to a protected class of workers. These protected classes include:

  • Race
  • Disability
  • Skin color
  • Pregnancy
  • National origin
  • Religion or faith
  • Age—40 or older
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender and gender identity

For example, if your employer treats everyone better than you because you have a disability, their favoritism might actually be discrimination.

What are some examples of workplace favoritism?

Your superiors might be more open and friendly with their favorite workers, which does not violate any laws. However, if their favoritism trickles over into company operations, you might have grounds for a discrimination claim. Examples of work-related favoritism include:

  • Failures to discipline preferred employees
  • Giving favorites more meaningful assignments
  • Paying their favorite workers more than others in similar positions
  • Providing more support and career development to preferred workers

These are only a few examples of discrimination via favoritism. If you need to learn more about your options, you may benefit from legal guidance.