Does favoritism in the workplace constitute discrimination?

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Does favoritism in the workplace constitute discrimination?

I recently applied for a management position at work and the requirements were to have 2 years experience as a lead or supervisor. I had just under 2 years as a lead for experience and was not even given an interview and told by my boss that, that was the reason. Today I found out that the job was given to someone who had zero experience as a lead or supervisor. I have come to believe that in my industry it is who you know, not what you know. I am curious if this falls under the anti-discrimination act or not. I’m not sure how they can tell me that I don’t even deserve an interview because of my lack of experience but then they give the job to someone who has even less experience. This person that got the job has family that works here as well.

Asked on October 14, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The fact is that not all employees need be treated the same or even fairly. Discrimination in the workplace is not illegal unless it has to do with an employee's being a member of a "protected class". This means that unfavorable treatment must due to their race, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender, disability or nationality. And, from the facts presented, such does not seem to be the case here.
In an "at will" work relationship, an employer can set the terms of the workplace much as it sees fit. So unless an employee is afforded protection under a union agreement, company policy or employment contract, an employer can hire and promote as it chooses. 
Bottom line, while unfair, promoting a family friend over an experienced employee, is legal.


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