Thanks to popular movies and television shows, most of us are familiar with how sexual harassment creates a hostile work environment. This is especially true in our post-#metoo world.
However, many employers and business owners do not know about sexual favoritism and how it too can create a hostile work environment. To be good stewards, California employers and business owners should have an expansive view of all potential litigation issues, including sexual favoritism.
What is sexual favoritism?
Sexual favoritism has been described as the flipside of sexual harassment. It refers to how sexual harassment can affect workers other than the one who is individually harassed.
For example, think of the classic example of a male boss who wants sexual favors from a female employee in exchange for giving her a promotion. The woman accepts the terms and receives the promotion. Meanwhile, other women in the workplace either refused the offer or never got such an offer. As a result, they did not receive the promotion. This may be illegal sexual favoritism.
Quid pro quo and hostile work environment
Like sexual harassment generally, sexual favoritism can be broken down into two types: hostile work environment and quid pro quo.
Quid pro quo means some sexual favor is demanded in exchange for an employment benefit (or just to keep the job). Conversely, hostile work environment refers to times when the sexually hostile conduct and requests are so pervasive that they create a hostile work environment.
What to know
For Orange County employers and business owners, the key here is try to make sure that sex stays out of the workplace. Even if employees are not directly impacted by the sexual conduct, they could be impacted by not receiving a benefit, which just increases the number of potential litigants.