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Sexual favoritism and harassment

On Behalf of | Nov 1, 2022 | Employment Law |

In this post-#metoo world, most of us are familiar with sexual harassment and the wrongful termination that can occur as a result. However, what is not as commonly known is the wrongful termination that results from sexual favoritism.

Sexual favoritism is not part of popular discourse. This may be the first time that our Lake Oswego, Oregon, readers have even seen the term come up in the context of sexual harassment law.

Sexual favoritism

Sexual favoritism is a form of sexual harassment, but it is also the underside of sexual harassment. It refers to the favoritism a sexually harassed employee receives because of their acceptance of the inappropriate behavior.

For example, if a Lake Oswego, Oregon, female boss demands sexual favors in exchange for a promotion, and the male employee accepts, then he has experienced sexual harassment. Meanwhile, all the qualified male employees who did not receive the promotion also experienced sexual harassment because they were not rewarded through sexual favoritism.


For better or worse, not all cases of sexual favoritism qualify.

For example, if that same boss in the examples above is in a consensual relationship with a male co-worker, and that co-worker receives the promotion, it may not be evidence of sexual favoritism.

It will depend on the facts, but if this is a one-off instance, and the boss has not sexually harassed any other employees, then the sexual favoritism would be allowable. Why? Because, while perhaps unfair, this sexual favoritism affected both sexes equally. This is called the paramour exemption.

Legally, sexual harassment is considered a form of sexual discrimination. If no one was discriminated against on the basis of their sex or gender, then, legally, there is no sexual harassment.

Work is for work, not sex

You and all your co-workers should feel safe at work, and you should not have to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace. If you suspect a case of sexual harassment, including sexual favoritism, consider contacting an Oregon employment law attorney to learn about your options.


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