workplace sexual harassment quid pro quo

What is Quid Pro Quo Workplace Harassment?

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“Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase that translates to “something for something”. This type of workplace harassment refers to sexual harassment at work when the supervisor or employer offers a job-related benefit to an employee in return for sexual favors. This is one of the major workplace harassment types recognized by the California employment laws. An employee who has faced quid pro quo sexual harassment can file a lawsuit in court under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (California Gov. Code Section 12940).

Legally, it is categorized as quid pro quo sexual harassment when a supervisor or employer asks the employee to provide a sexual service in exchange for some advantage in the workplace. It can also be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment when the supervisor or employer asks for sexual favors from the employee to avoid a negative result at the workplace. Simply put, the supervisor or employer tries to trade a work benefit in return for sexual actions.

As per California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, the employee will need to prove the following to file a lawsuit for quid pro quo sexual harassment.

  • They experienced any form of sexual advances, comments, or demands at the workplace;
  • The sexual harassment was from their supervisor, manager, or employer
  • They suffered a tangible negative effect at the workplace because they rejected the sexual demands of their supervisor, manager, or employer.

Generally, the job-related benefits that can be involved in quid pro quo workplace harassment can be a promise of a promotion, salary increase, easier job responsibilities, favorable shifts, and transfer to easier location, etc. It can also involve a threat of a negative employment action, such as a demotion, less desirable shifts, difficult job duties, and transfer to a remote location, etc., if the employee does not comply with the supervisor’s or employer’s sexual demands. In some cases, the supervisor or employer may also threaten to fire the employee if they do not perform the demanded sexual services.

Note that the requested exchange of quid pro quo sexual harassment can be either implied or explicit. This means that even if the supervisor or employer is suggesting by their behaviors and actions that they want a sexual favor from the employee in return for a benefit at work, but is not asking for it directly, that also be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment. However, the employee will have to prove that the supervisor’s or employer’s behavior or action was hinting towards making sexual favors in return for an employment benefit to file the lawsuit.

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