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What constitutes quid pro quo sexual harassment at work?

On Behalf of | Oct 26, 2022 | Employment Law |

Sexual harassment makes people feel uncomfortable or unsafe at work. It may make them feel like they no longer have autonomy over their own bodies. Sexual harassment may involve a hostile work environment, such as when coworkers make inappropriate comments about your appearance or jokes at your expense.

However, sexual harassment can also involve someone in a position of authority abusing that power. Your supervisor or the company owner could engage in what is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment. When you understand what constitutes quid pro quo sexual harassment, you will have an easier time defending yourself from misconduct by an employer.

How quid pro quo harassment works

Quid pro quo essentially means this for that. Many people enter into quid pro quo arrangements in a scenario that benefits both parties mutually. However, someone in a subordinate position to the other party at work may not be able to give full and free consent.

A quid pro quo harassment situation could involve a supervisor telling you during a performance review that you didn’t do great because your attitude is bad but they’ll give you an opportunity to improve it by showing them what a team player you are. They essentially threaten to punish you or report poor performance on the job unless you acquiesce to their demands.

The inverse situation would also constitute quid pro quo harassment. If your supervisor or a company owner offers you money or a promotion for performing sexual acts instead of threatening you if you do not comply, that would also constitute quid pro quo harassment.

How do you fight back?

Experiencing quid pro quo harassment can be a uniquely stressful experience, in part because it will occur with no witnesses, unlike a hostile work environment that everyone can see. You will typically need documentation that helps support your claim of misconduct by a supervisor or business owner.

Maybe they sent you text messages or emails. Those messages could be important evidence. Otherwise, you may need to start keeping your own records of each incident where they attempt to solicit you. You will usually need to report the incident to the employer, and then if they fail to take action, you can theoretically pursue a claim in civil court.

Recognizing sexual harassment when it happens to you is an important step for protecting your career.