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Is employer favoritism the same as workplace discrimination?

On Behalf of | Apr 2, 2024 | Employment Law |

Feeling like certain people get preferential treatment in your workplace can be incredibly demotivating – not to mention frustrating. You might even believe your boss is purposely helping some (friends, relatives) succeed in the workplace while overlooking others.

Although manager or employer bias within a company may raise ethical concerns, this only crosses the legal line in specific situations.

Employer discretion can only extend so far

Generally, employers may manage operations at their discretion as long as it is legal. That means it may be possible for a select few employees to receive better treatment, without the employer breaking the law.

However, many other instances of employer favoritism are unlawfully discriminatory. Neither private nor public employers may discriminate against individuals because of a protected characteristic.

These include:

  • Race
  • Disability
  • Age (40 or older)
  • Religion
  • National Origin
  • Gender and gender identity
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Pregnancy
  • Skin color

For example, if your boss won’t let you wear garments or hairstyles required for your faith, it could be a case of religious discrimination.

Cronyism in action: Red flags to watch for

While employers forming closer bonds with certain employees may not be a violation, problems arise when it affects work procedures. Examples of possibly discriminatory favoritism may include:

  • Lenient discipline for preferred workers
  • Assigning meaningful projects only to favored employees
  • Paying unequal wages for similar positions
  • Giving career development opportunities only to family or friends

These are just a few instances of possibly unlawful conduct on the part of an employer. If you suspect such behavior from a Braintree employer, research the employment laws in Massachusetts to understand your situation thoroughly.

Guidance from a legal representative can help you explore your options and pursue a satisfactory remedy for your mistreatment.