What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

The definition of sexual harassment is broad. Workplace sexual harassment can take many forms, from unwanted sexual touching to name-calling. Sexual harassment can involve threats, intimidation or blackmail. Sexual harassment can also refer to promises in exchange for sexual acts, such as a job promotion. If you believe you have experienced this type of sexual harassment in California, speak to an Orange County sexual harassment lawyer about a quid pro quo claim.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid Pro Quo = This for That

Quid pro quo is a Latin term that translates to “something for something.” It is a trade: this for that. In a sexual harassment context, quid pro quo means to offer something in return for a sexual favor. A boss, supervisor, employer, coworker or another party may offer something – either outright or via hints – in exchange for the employee’s satisfaction of a sexual request. An employer might make it clear, for example, that if the employee accepts his or her offer of going on a date, the employee will be first in line for a new special project.

Any offer, request or advance of a sexual nature that could hurt or help the target’s employment based on the employee’s reception of it could qualify as quid pro quo sexual harassment. Quid pro quo backs a victim into a corner. A desperate job applicant, for example, might feel he or she has no choice but to fulfill the sexual demand to get the job. Someone who depends on his or her paycheck to feed a family might not feel he or she can risk losing the job by rejecting an employer’s sexual advances. It is a dangerous type of sexual harassment that can lead to the victim not coming forward.

How to Recognize Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment plays on a victim’s fears and future. It holds the threat of the employee losing job benefits, such as employment, a raise, promotion, work assignments or a preferred schedule. It could also impact the employee’s current job, such as an employer threatening to demote or fire the employee for failing to accept the sexual advance. It is important to protect your rights immediately if you believe you have experienced quid pro quo sexual harassment.

  1. You are or were an employee or job applicant at a company.
  2. You experienced unwanted sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature from the company or one of its employees.
  3. The harasser offered certain job benefits with the condition (through words or conduct) that you must accept the sexual advance.
  4. You suffered harm because of the harasser’s quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Any time someone at your company implies or directly states that the future of your career depends on how you respond to a request for a sexual favor, speak out. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is against the law in California. You may file a claim even if you submitted to someone’s inappropriate requests.

What to Do About Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Legal remedies are available to you as a victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment. You may be able to recover the costs of lost income, job benefits and employment opportunities, plus emotional distress and job reinstatement in some cases. You could also be eligible for punitive damages to punish the sexual harasser. You must typically act within 180 days of the last incident of sexual harassment, however, to have a valid claim.

First, report the issue to your employer’s human resources department. The office might respond with appropriate measures, such as firing the sexual harasser and reinstating your lost job benefits. If this fails, file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. These entities can investigate your employer and pursue damages on your behalf. If you have experienced sexual assault, call 911 to report the assailant as well. Then, contact a sexual harassment attorney in California for legal advice about your case.