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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Is “Nepotism” permissible under California labor laws?

By Spodek Law Group | February 13, 2023

Why Nepotism Can Be a Problem in California Workplaces

What is Nepotism?

Nepotism is when someone in a position of power favors their family or friends in the workplace, regardless of their qualifications or performance. In California, it’s defined as giving preferential treatment to someone related by blood, adoption, marriage, domestic partnership, or cohabitation.

The Impact of Nepotism in the Workplace

Nepotism can have a negative impact on the workplace by reducing morale, increasing turnover, and decreasing productivity. Employees may become less loyal to the company and care less about the quality of their work. Additionally, nepotism can lead to poor management personnel.

Nepotism in Private and Public Workplaces

While nepotism is generally not illegal in private companies, it can still be the basis for discrimination claims under state or federal law. In the public sector, however, nepotism is unlawful and violates the California state constitution. Public employers must base all permanent appointments and promotions on merit, and adopt anti-nepotism policies.

Anti-Nepotism Policies in the Public Sector

State agencies in the public sector must have anti-nepotism policies that include a commitment to a merit-based hiring system, a definition of nepotism, a prohibition against employees participating in the hiring process of someone they have a personal relationship with, and a process for addressing direct supervision between employees with personal relationships.

The Bottom Line

While nepotism may be common in California workplaces, it can have serious negative consequences for both employers and employees. It’s important for employers to prioritize merit-based hiring and avoid any actions that could be perceived as discriminatory or unfair.

The Impact of Nepotism on Workplace Discrimination

When Nepotism Goes Too Far

In the workplace, favoritism can occur for a variety of reasons. When it comes to nepotism, however, things can quickly spiral out of control. Even with private employers, nepotism can lead to a claim of discrimination in violation of California or federal law.

In particular, discrimination claims can stem from the actions of an individual boss or hiring partner, or from a company-wide policy. Claims can be made on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex, or marital status.

The Insidious Nature of Sexual Favoritism

Consider the case of Lou, who is known for committing sexual harassment and having affairs with female subordinates. He then uses his hiring power to give them promotions. If an employee like Edna is passed over for a promotion and can show that the sexual favoritism is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment, it can amount to sex discrimination.

The Problem with Word-of-Mouth Hiring

Another example of workplace nepotism is when an employer relies entirely on a “word-of-mouth” hiring process. In such cases, no public notice of the position is made available, resulting in a workforce filled with friends, family members, and churchgoers, but with no racial diversity. Potential job applicants may have a discrimination claim based on religious beliefs or race.

The Impact of Nepotism on National Origin

Nepotism often invokes national origin as the basis for discrimination. When hiring personnel bring in friends and family, the new employees are likely to be disproportionately of the same heritage. This can amount to disparate treatment of job applicants from other backgrounds, which is a form of discrimination.

Marital Status and Nepotism

Discrimination based on marital status can also come from workplace nepotism. When spouses receive preferable treatment, this can amount to discrimination against others based on marital status. However, employers also have to avoid discriminating against current or potential employees because they are married to each other. Doing so is also discriminatory. Many employers have policies that aim to prevent conflicts of interest in the workplace brought on by employees who are spouses. These policies, however, cannot take adverse employment decisions against you because of your marriage to a coworker.

What to Do If You Lost a Workplace Opportunity to Nepotism

If you think that workplace nepotism has amounted to discrimination, you should get the legal advice of a California labor lawyer from a reputable law firm. A lawyer can help you file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) (formerly known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)).

It is also wise to bring the issue to the attention of your employer’s human resources (HR) department. This can put your employer on notice of the nepotism problem in your workplace, help you succeed in a later discrimination claim, and resolve the issue without needing to take your claims any further.

If necessary, you can file a discrimination claim under the federal anti-discrimination law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with the EEOC. This claim must be filed within 180 days of the alleged discrimination or 300 days if a California agency prohibits the discrimination on the same basis, which is often the case with nepotism-related claims. After filing the formal complaint, the EEOC has 180 days to investigate the claim. They may choose to pursue the case on your behalf or issue you a right to sue letter so you can file a lawsuit.

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I was searching for a law firm with some power to help me deal with a warrant in New York . After 6 days I decided to go with Spodek Law Group. It helped that This law firm is well respected by not only the top law firms in New York , but the DA , Judge as well. I...

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It was my good fortune to retain Spodek Law Group for representation for my legal needs. From the beginning, communication was prompt and thorough. Todd, Kenneth and Alex were the first people I worked with and they all made me feel comfortable and confident that the team was going to work hard for me. Everything was explained and any concerns...

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After meeting with several law firms, I chose the Spodek Law Group not only for their professionalism and experience, but for the personal attention given to me right from the initial consultation. It is important to recognize how crucial having the right legal team is when faced with potentially life altering events that impact families and the lives of loved...

~George Cherubini

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