Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment: What You Need To Know

You expect your workplace to be free of harassment, discrimination, and violence. Unfortunately, all three of these problems remain in companies throughout the United States.

While quid pro quo sexual harassment sounds complicated, it’s anything but that.


What Does Quid Pro Quo Harassment Mean?

Simply put, Quid Pro Quo in latin means:

“This for That.”

So what this means is, demanding unwelcome sexual advances for an exchange that will advance the person being harassed. Also, a more technical definition here’s how the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines it:

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting an individual. 


What Is An Example Of Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

No two quid pro quo sexual harassment claims are identical, however, in order for the harassment to fit into this category, it must have the following elements:

  • The plaintiff was an employee of the company (or applying for a position)
  • The harasser made unwanted sexual advances to the plaintiff, verbally and/or physically 
  • Specific job benefits, such as receiving a job offer or promotion, were attached to the acceptance of the harasser’s advances
  • At the time of the quid pro quo conduct, the harasser was a supervisor to the plaintiff 
  • The behavior of the harasser caused the plaintiff harm, such as losing their job

Overall, the plaintiff must be able to prove to the court that the action of the defendant resulted in an adverse employment action, such as termination, demotion, or a pay cut. 


What To Do About Quid Pro Quo Harassment At Work?

If you believe you’ve been the victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment, there are two basic paths you can follow:

  • Let it go and hope that the problem goes away
  • Take action to ensure that you’re protecting your legal rights

It’s never a good idea to sit back quietly, as doing so may give the harasser reason to believe that you aren’t put off by their advances.

Furthermore, even if they leave you alone, there is a good chance that the person will begin to sexually harass someone else.


What If You Are A Victim Of Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Here are the steps you should take if you’re the victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment at work:

  • Make it clear to the harasser that you feel threatened and you want them to stop
  • Take detailed notes of what happened, including the date, time, and place 
  • Collect evidence related to your claim of quid pro quo sexual harassment, such as a text message or email you received from the harasser
  • Report the behavior to your HR department (make sure they file a formal complaint)
  • Follow-up on your complaint to ensure that the appropriate action has been taken
  • File a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if your employer neglects to take action

It’s your hope that simply telling the person to stop is enough for them to realize what they’ve done.

However, this doesn’t always work, so you may need to take things to the next level, such as by involving your HR department and/or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 


Legal Remedies Are Available

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may need to take legal action against your harasser and/or employer. It’s possible to collect compensatory damages for:

  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits
  • Employment opportunities lost or missed
  • Emotional distress
  • Reinstatement 

Note: if you’re interested in seeking compensation related to quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace, you shouldn’t wait to take action. For example, you have 180 days from the last instance of harassment to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


Proactive Employers Are Taking Action

While some companies assume that nothing bad will ever happen within their organization, others are proactive in doing their part to avoid trouble regarding sexual harassment. 

For example, a growing number of companies are making it a requirement for employees to partake in sexual harassment training.

This provides them with the knowledge necessary to prevent this behavior in the workplace, as well as information on what to do if they become a victim.

There are many benefits to sexual harassment prevention training.

State Specific

In some states, such as:

sexual harassment training is mandatory for employees. 

In New York City, for example, the following law is in place:

Under Local Law 96 of 2018, employers with 15 or more employees are required to conduct annual anti-sexual harassment training for all employees.  New York State Law requires that employers of one or more employees must conduct anti-sexual harassment training for all employees.

It’s safe to assume that a growing number of states and cities will implement similar laws in the near future. 

As a result of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, all forms of sexual harassment in the workplace are illegal. But even when combined with state laws, quid pro quo sexual harassment still remains an issue in places of employment throughout the country.

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