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What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment In The Workplace?

On Behalf of | Jul 19, 2023 | Sexual Harassment |

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that translates to “something for something” or “this for that.” In the workplace, quid pro quo sexual harassment is an exchange that occurs between a person in a position of authority or power and a subordinate.

You can think of it as an indecent proposal. A supervisor offers workplace benefits in exchange for sexual favors. They might even threaten to terminate an employee if they are not amenable to the exchange, in which case an employee or subordinate feels the need to perform sexual favors to keep their job.

How can I prove that quid pro quo harassment occurred?

To prove quid pro quo harassment, the person must show that the victim works for or under the supervision of the alleged harasser or applied for a job with the harasser. The person must also prove that the harasser made unwanted sexual advances or sexually suggestive insinuations and that the workplace benefits were contingent on those sexual requests.

What makes the quid pro quo element tricky to prove is that the proposal can be explicit or implicit. In other words, the supervisor may not actually say they want sex outright in exchange for workplace benefits. They can butter up the employee by giving them the following:

  • A job
  • Higher pay
  • A better schedule in the office
  • A positive evaluation
  • Approval of a project the employee wants to spearhead
  • Assignment to a project the employee wants to be a part of
  • A promotion
  • A nicer office

Then they can threaten to take it all away if the employee refuses to return the favor. The employee would need proof of the threat and that the supervisor followed through on the threat for the quid pro quo harassment complaint to have merit.

What should I do if I experienced quid pro quo harassment?

If a supervisor or manager is harassing you, you can talk to your employer or someone from the Human Resources Department. California laws protect employees from quid pro quo sexual harassment, regardless of the number of employees in the company. Your employer should be responsible for fostering a safe working space. You should not have to work in a hostile environment where you must do unpleasant things to get ahead.