Examples of Quid Pro Quo Harassment at Work

There are two types of workplace sexual harassment that are prohibited by California and federal employment laws: harassment that creates a hostile work environment and “quid pro quo” harassment. Quid pro quo means “this for that” in Latin, and this type of harassment involves someone making sexual requests in exchange for impacts on the victim’s job.

This type of harassment usually happens between a subordinate employee (the victim) and someone in a superior position (the harasser), as a superior has the authority to impact the subordinate’s job. This type of harassment can be highly damaging in many ways, and the following are some examples of what might constitute quid pro quo harassment.

Promising to Hire Someone for Sexual Favors

Imagine that you go into a job interview, and you think it is going well. Suddenly, the interviewer moves to the chair closest to you and puts their hand on your leg. They mention that you could have the job if you were willing to go on a date with them or come to their home. This is an advance with a promise of hiring if you agree, and it is a form of quid pro quo harassment.

Promising a Promotion for Sexual Favors

You have worked at a company for a few years and you are hoping to get a promotion and pay raise soon. At a happy hour after work, your boss approaches you and lets you know that you are not really in the running for the higher position. However, your boss then puts their arm around you and whispers that having sex would change their mind and you would get the promotion if you agreed to sleep with them.

Offering Perks for Sexual Favors

Your boss offers to let you use the company car or credit card, and then tells you that you can repay them by coming to their house for a romantic dinner. If you go over there for dinner once, they then offer to give you a better-positioned office or desk if you agree to see them again.

Threatening Termination for a Refusal of Sexual Advances

You are at a conference with your boss, and they ask you to come back to their hotel room at night. When you politely decline, they say that they can fire you for any reason they want, and you should rethink your decision about going to their room.

Any situation that makes an aspect of a job a condition of agreeing or refusing to sexual conduct can be quid pro quo harassment. Some threats that might occur are:

  • Reduced hours
  • Undesirable assignments or transfers
  • Poor performance reviews
  • Demotion
  • Termination of employment

Positive job benefits that can be offered in return for sexual conduct include:

  • Favorable reviews or recommendations
  • Promotions
  • Hiring
  • Better shifts
  • Pay raises
  • Other perks or benefits

If you think you experienced quid pro quo harassment, it is a very serious situation. You should immediately discuss what happened with a workplace sexual harassment lawyer who can advise you of your rights.

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