When Is Favoritism Illegal?


In an ideal world, all workplaces would work on a purely meritocratic basis. Under such a system, promotions and pay would be determined by work ethic, achievement, and results. We all know that we don’t live in an ideal world, and we know that sometimes bosses have favorite employees. These favored employees may receive preferential treatment, be promoted more quickly, or earn additional pay. This type of favoritism is legal under certain circumstances, but not always.

If you suspect your boss or employer is showing favoritism to certain workers, talk to an employment discrimination lawyer right away. The Georgia employment discrimination attorneys at the Vaughn Law Firm have extensive experience handling both local and federal discrimination cases. We want to help you get the fair treatment and benefits you deserve at your job, and we know how to do it.

Keep reading to learn more about legal and illegal favoritism in the workplace. If you want to know more about our legal services, contact our office to set up an initial consultation.

When Favoritism Is Legal

It might be a more just world if all forms of favoritism were illegal, but the fact is that employers can show favoritism under certain circumstances. It may not be fair, and it’s not a great management tactic, but it’s the law.

Here are some forms of favoritism that are legal:

  • Favoring an employee who’s a friend outside of work – Employers or managers promoting or giving special benefits to their friends is common. It’s unfair and one of the more blatant forms of favoritism, but it’s legal nonetheless.
  • Favoring an employee based on a shared interest – It may seem silly to promote someone or give them additional responsibilities because they share a hobby with a manager or because they like the same sports team, but it’s unfortunately common. This type of favoritism is also legal.

When Favoritism Is Illegal

Broadly speaking, favoritism is illegal when it’s the result of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or in violation of stated company policies.

Some examples of illegal forms of favoritism include:

  • Protected characteristics – If someone is favored or treated unfairly at their job because of their race, gender, age, religion, disability, or other protected characteristic, that would be an example of discrimination and would be considered illegal favoritism.
  • Harassment – It’s unfortunately common for employees to be favored because they’re willing to put up with verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual harassment from a superior. These are all types of illegal harassment. In these cases, the employees who were not favored would likely have a valid case for favoritism, while the employees who were favored would be able to file a harassment claim of their own.
  • Retaliation – If an employer retaliates against an employee by favoring another worker, the employee facing retaliation would likely have cause for a favoritism claim.
  • Violation of company policies – One reason businesses have handbooks and put guidelines for promotion or wage increases in writing is to set an equal standard. If, however, certain employees are favored for reasons that violate these stated policies, those employees who weren’t favored would likely have grounds for a favoritism lawsuit.

Contact a Georgia Workers’ Rights Attorney Today

If you’ve worked hard at your job and been denied certain benefits because of illegal favoritism, it might be necessary to take legal action to hold your employer accountable. To get help with your favoritism case, contact the Vaughn Law Firm by calling our office or visiting our contact page.