In our final part in our sexual harassment series, we will talk about sexual favoritism. Of course, we will post again on other sexual harassment topics.
Two types of sexual harassment
According to the EEOC, there are two types of sexual harassment. The first, “quid pro quo” harassment, occurs when one is asked to submit to unwelcome sexual conduct to gain or retain some employment benefit. The second is referred to as “hostile environment.” This is the type that we have largely spoken about in the other two posts in this series. In this type, sexual harassment creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.
What is sexual favoritism?
In quid pro quo sexual harassment situations, sexual favoritism refers to the benefits that one receives from giving in to sexual advances and requests to the detriment of those that do not. For example, a manager promotes your co-worker who performed a sexual act after you refused. If this practice is pervasive enough, it could qualify as hostile workforce discrimination, as well. In these situations, the person that did not receive the benefit may sue the employer for unlawful sex discrimination.
Willing paramour versus coercion
The crux of one’s case may fall on whether the person that received the benefit was a consensual romantic partner (a so-called paramour), or a coerced sexual partner. Some courts find that an isolated incident of favoritism toward a consensual partner, while unfair, is not discriminatory. The logic is that both genders are equally disadvantaged by the relationship, which means the act cannot be sex-based discrimination.
Coerced favoritism may constitute quid pro quo
On the other hand, if the employee submits to unwelcome sexual advances for such an employee benefit, then the other similarly qualified same-sex employees may have a case of illegal sexual favoritism based on quid pro quo. In other words, to qualify for the employee benefit, the employee had to first grant the requested sexual favors, which is a condition not placed on those of the opposite sex.