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50 Int'l J.L. & Mgmt. 5 (2008)

handle is hein.journals/ijlm50 and id is 1 raw text is: #      The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
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The law dealing with sexual
favouritism in the workplace?
Sam Middlemiss
The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen Business School, Aberdeen, UK
Purpose - This paper aims to cast light on the legal aspects of a problem which in the past, because
of its nature, has largely gone unrecognised and become part and parcel of working life. The paper
seeks to provide an overview of the current legal treatment of sexual favouritism in the UK and USA
and recommends how it can be improved.
Design/methodology/approach - The law in the USA is chosen for comparison because they have
a system of employment law which is more longstanding and because the volume of cases dealt with
there provides more examples than that in the UK. The law in this area is analysed through
consideration of the relevant legal decisions and statutes and codes of practice that apply in both
Findings - This article highlights the key issues for victims and employees involved in sexual
relationships with their supervisor at work and encourages employers to take steps to combat this
practice. It will also hopefully persuade the judiciary to interpret the existing law to provide a remedy
to its victims or legislators to introduce specific legal protection for them.
Research limitations/implications - Unfortunately there is a dearth of legal cases dealing with
sexual favouritism in the UK and very few commentators writing on this issue. Sexual favouritism is
regarded as an acceptable practice at work by employers and managers and there are no plans for
changing the law to provide protection to its victims in both jurisdictions. Hopefully this article will
serve to persuade employers to combat this behaviour in the workplace and convince the judiciary
and Parliament to change the law in favour of victims of sexual favouritism. Primary research into
the incidence rate of sexual favouritism and its impact in the workplace would be extremely useful to
underpin the conclusions of this paper.
Originality/value - This paper examines for the first time the legal rights both of victims of sexual
favouritism and of employees involved in a sexual relationship and includes a comparison between
the legal rules dealing with this issue in the United Kingdom and the USA. It will be of particular
value to human resource managers and line managers who have to deal with this issue in the
workplace and legal representatives who are called upon to represent victims in their legal claims.
Keywords Law, Sexual discrimination, Sexual harassment, Workplace, United Kingdom, United
States of America
Paper type Viewpoint
Sexual favouritism exists where a person who is in a position of authority rewards only those
who respond to his/her sexual advances, whilst other deserving employees who do not submit
themselves to any sexual advances are denied promotion, merit rating or salary increases.[1]
So an employee is a victim of sexual favouritism when she loses out in comparison with
another employee (male or female) who enters into sexual relations with their
supervisor and is consequently rewarded for it.
Employers are not obliged under the law to prohibit sexual favouritism in the
workplace and perpetrators of this behaviour are often free to indulge in the invidious
practice of rewarding staff that agree to have sex with them.
This paper was originally written and presented as a conference paper for the Society of Legal
Scholars Conference in Durham in September 2007.

Law dealing
with sexual


International Journal of Law and
Vol. 50 No. 1, 2008
pp. 5-16
© Emerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/03090550810852077

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