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Employee Complaints Of Favouritism In The Workplace

Published August 30, 2016 (last updated February 21, 2023) - NZ Operations Manager

There is no doubt that favouritism in the workplace stems from bad management because it opens the door for employee complaints about unfair treatment and discrimination.

All employees are entitled to, and expect to be treated equally. If there are policies, guidelines, opportunities for development or promotion, frequent communication, and any other work related decisions, employees are well within their rights to assume a fair process will be followed.

But is favouritism illegal?

Not always. It depends on why employees are being favoured or disfavoured. If favouritism is rooted in discrimination, harassment, or retaliation it crosses the line from poor management to illegal behaviour.

Most complaints about favouritism in the workplace could lead to discrimination claims. Discrimination in the workplace happens when employers make decisions based on employees’ personal characteristics – traits that would be the basis of unlawful discrimination. Under the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Employment Relations Act 2000 for example, discrimination could be when an employer decides not to hire someone because of race, refusing to promote a woman, demoting employees with disabilities, or terminating employees because of their personal characteristics.

Similarly, if a manager’s decisions are intended to punish employees who have complained of illegal behaviour (such as underpayments or unsafe working conditions), that would also be considered adverse action.

On the other hand, favouritism that is based on other factors may not be discriminatory, even if it is a sign of bad management. For example, if a manager favours an employee who is their friend outside of work, or who are part of a sporting team outside of work, that is not discrimination. Favouritism is exactly what it sounds like: preferential treatment given not because an employee is doing a great job, but for reasons outside of the job performance. Nevertheless, favouritism in the workplace can lead to serious implications such as lower morale, resentment or more complaints of discrimination.

To avoid complaints, it is essential to ensure you treat all employees fairly. Being aware of favouritism or discrimination and developing a strategy to fairly reward and recognise employees can ensure your workplace is fair and productive. As an employer, you have the authority to help define procedures and policies in your workplace and Employsure can help. Our team of specialists can help you limit favouritism or discrimination in the workplace by providing appropriate workplace policy and procedure, advice and documents. Call us today on 0800 675 700.

About Employsure.

Employsure is Australia’s largest workplace relations specialists. We take the complexity out of workplace laws to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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