Equal Employment Opportunity Commission N This policy document is intended to provide guidance on the extent to which an employer should be held liable for discriminating against individuals who are qualified for but are denied an employment opportunity or benefit, where the individual who is granted the opportunity or benefit received it because that person submitted to sexual advances or requests.
Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson , U. EEOC 's Guidelines define two kinds of sexual harassment: An isolated instance of favoritism toward a "paramour" or a spouse, or a friend may be unfair, but it does not discriminate against women or men in violation of Title VII, since both are disadvantaged for reasons other than their genders.
Westchester County Medical Center , F. Palmer , F. Favoritism Based Upon Coerced Sexual Conduct May Constitute Quid Pro Quo Harassment If a female employee 6 is coerced into submitting to unwelcome sexual advances in return for a job benefit, other female employees who were qualified for but were denied the benefit may be able to establish that sex was generally made a condition for receiving the benefit. This is substantially the same as a traditional sexual harassment charge alleging that sexual favors were implicitly demanded as a "quid pro quo" in return for job benefits.
Nimmo , F. Although the individual who was granted preferential treatment was engaged in a consensual affair with her supervisor, there was evidence that the supervisor made telephone calls to proposition several female employees at home, phoned employees at work to describe his supposed sexual encounters with female employees under his supervision, and engaged in suggestive behavior at work.
For example, a supervisor may have been interested in only one woman and, thus, have coerced only her. Nevertheless, in such a case, both women and men who were qualified for but were denied the benefit would have standing to challenge the favoritism on the basis that they were injured as a result of the discrimination leveled against the woman who was coerced.
White Hall School District , F. American Home Foods, Inc. Widespread Favoritism May Constitute Hostile Environment Harassment If favoritism based upon the granting of sexual favors is widespread in a workplace, both male and female colleagues who do not welcome this conduct can establish a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII regardless of whether any objectionable conduct is directed at them and regardless of whether those who were granted favorable treatment willingly bestowed the sexual favors.
In these circumstances, a message is implicitly conveyed that the managers view women as "sexual playthings," thereby creating an atmosphere that is demeaning to women.
Both men and women who find this offensive can establish a violation if the conduct is "sufficiently severe or pervasive 'to alter the conditions of [their] employment and create an abusive working environment. City of Dundee , F. Even if the targets of the humor "play along" and in no way display that they object, co-workers of any race, national origin or sex can claim that this conduct, which communicates a bias against protected class members, creates a hostile work environment for them.
EEOC , F. Managers who engage in widespread sexual favoritism may also communicate a message that the way for women to get ahead in the workplace is by engaging in sexual conduct or that sexual solicitations are a prerequisite to their fair treatment.
Ruder , F. In Broderick a staff attorney at the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that two of her supervisors had engaged in sexual relationships with two secretaries who received promotions, cash awards, and other job benefits.
Another of her supervisors allegedly promoted the career of a staff attorney with whom he socialized extensively and to whom he was noticeably attracted. In addition, there were isolated instances of sexual harassment directed at the plaintiff herself, including an incident in which her supervisor became drunk at an office party, untied the plaintiff's sweater, and kissed her.
The court found that the conduct of these supervisors "created an atmosphere of hostile work environment" offensive to the plaintiff and several other witnesses. It further stated that the supervisors' conduct in bestowing preferential treatment upon those who submitted to their sexual advances undermined the plaintiff's motivation and work performance and deprived her and other female employees of promotions and job opportunities.
Broderick , F. While the court in Broderick grounded its ruling on the hostile environment theory, it is the Commission's position that these facts could also support an implicit "quid pro quo" harassment claim since the managers, by their conduct, communicated a message to all female employees in the office that job benefits would be awarded to those who participated in sexual conduct.
See also Spencer v. General Electric , F. EEOC 's investigation discloses that the relationship at issue was consensual and that the supervisor had never subjected CP's co-worker or any other employees to unwelcome sexual advances. The Commission would find no violation of Title VII in these circumstances, because men and women were equally disadvantaged by the supervisor's conduct for reasons other than their genders. Example 2 - Same as above, except the relationship at issue was not consensual.
Instead, CP's supervisor regularly harassed the co-worker in front of other employees, demanded sexual favors as a condition for her promotion, and then audibly boasted about his "conquest.
In addition, she and other qualified men and women who were denied the promotion would have standing to challenge the favoritism on the basis that they were injured as a result of the discrimination levelled against their co-worker. Example 3 - Same as Example 1, except CP's supervisor and other management personnel regularly solicited sexual favors from subordinate employees and offered job opportunities to those who complied.
Some of those employees willingly consented to the sexual requests and in turn received promotions and awards. Others consented because they recognized that their opportunities for advancement would otherwise be limited. CP, who did not welcome this conduct, was not approached for sexual favors.
However, she and other female and male coworkers may be able to establish that the conduct created a hostile work environment.
She can also claim that by their conduct, the managers communicated to all female employees that they can obtain job benefits only by acquiescing in sexual conduct.
Miller , F. The lower court held that in order to establish a Title VII claim, the plaintiff would have to show that her employer would have or did treat males differently. Since the plaintiff's male co-workers shared with her the same disadvantage relative to the co-worker who was engaged in the affair with the manager, the plaintiff could not show that she was treated differently than males. On appeal to the Third Circuit, the Commission filed an amicus brief supporting the ruling of the district court on the basis that favoritism toward a female employee because of a consensual romantic relationship with a male supervisor is not sex discrimination against other female employees within the meaning of Title VII.
The Court of Appeals summarily affirmed. The court held that the department administrator's conduct, though unfair, did not violate Title VII. DeCintio , F. The court reasoned that the prohibition of sex discrimination in Title VII refers to discrimination on the basis of one's sex, not on the basis of one's sexual affiliations; the therapists' claims were not cognizable under the Act since they were denied promotion because the administrator preferred his "paramour," rather than because of their status as males.
The court distinguished EEOC 's Guidelines by stating that they address the granting of employment benefits because of an individual's "submission" to sexual advances or requests, and the word "submission" connotes a lack of consent.
Since the department administrator did not force anyone to submit to sexual advances in order to win promotion, his conduct was not within the purview of the Guidelines.