How to Recognize and Stop Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Measuring how vital a safe work environment and effective leadership are to your productivity and long-term career growth is hard.
And while most relationships in the workplace are professional, sometimes those in leadership positions cross the line with unwelcomed sexual advances and threats of retaliation.
The following article explains what quid pro quo sexual harassment is, highlights common examples of the behavior, and provides actionable tips on how Californians can protect themselves from being harmed by it.
What is quid pro quo sexual harassment?
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or someone in leadership requires an employee to comply with sexual demands in return for workplace benefits.
The benefits exchanged in quid pro quo sexual harassment can take many forms, but the most common are:
- salary increases
- extra time off
- desirable work assignments
A hostile work environment refers to unwelcome and pervasive behavior that interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their job.
In contrast, quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a direct exchange of sexual favors for workplace benefits or the threat of employment action if the favors aren’t granted.
Examples of quid pro quo sexual harassment
Recognizing the signs of quid pro quo sexual harassment can help protect yourself and others in the workplace.
Here are examples of suggestive or explicit behavior that may indicate quid pro quo sexual harassment:
- A supervisor offers a promotion in exchange for sexual favors
- Threatening to fire an employee if they don’t engage in sexual acts
- Threatening disciplinary action (such as write-ups or demotions) for not complying with sexual advances
- Verbal harassment that implies sexual advances will lead to career advancement
- Offering rewards to an employee who gives in to sexual demands
- Demanding sexual favors in exchange for a promotion
- Giving preferential treatment to employees who engage in sexual activities
How does the law protect Californians?
Sexual harassment can be stressful when trying to face it on your own.
The good news is that federal and state laws are here to protect Californians against this type of harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
California Government Code Section 12940
Section 12940 prohibits discrimination based on any protected class. This includes sex-based discrimination.
As a result, employees who face any type of sexual harassment, including quid pro quo harassment, are entitled to protection under the law.
California’s Equal Housing and Employment Act (FEHA)
FEHA prohibits quid pro quo sexual harassment, making it illegal to demand sexual favors in exchange for employment benefits or to retaliate against an employee who refuses such demands.
Additionally, the FEHA makes it unlawful for an employer to fail to take reasonable steps to prevent a hostile work environment from arising, which can include quid pro quo sexual harassment.
To win a quid pro quo harassment case under FEHA, the plaintiff must demonstrate the following:
- Employment Status (employed by, applying to, or contracting with the alleged harasser)
- Linked Benefits, such as employment decisions conditioned on acceptance of advances
- The alleged harasser’s role at the employer
- Injury (lost wages, emotional distress, etc.)
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Employees who have experienced quid pro quo sexual harassment can file a complaint with the EEOC.
The EEOC will investigate their harassment claims matter and take appropriate action against the employer.
Employees have 180 days to file a claim with the EEOC, so it is crucial to act quickly.
How to stop quid pro quo sexual harassment
Employees must assert their rights under the law if they feel uncomfortable or pressured into complying with a superior’s sexual advances.
Here are some steps victims can take if they experience this kind of harassment.
Report the harassment
Report the harassment to your supervisor, HR representative, or another trusted authority figure. Be specific about what happened, and provide any evidence you have.
Document the behavior
Keep a record of any suggestive or explicit behavior. Write down what happened, where and when, and who was present. Save any emails, text messages, or voicemails related to the harassment.
Seek emotional support
Sexual harassment can be emotionally damaging. Consider seeking emotional support from friends, family, or a therapist. Victims should also know their legal options and know that they are not alone.
Hire a sexual harassment attorney
Victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment should consider seeking the services of a sexual harassment attorney for several reasons.
An attorney can help victims in the following ways:
- Explain legal options and file a complaint with the appropriate agency
- Provide valuable guidance and support throughout the legal process
- An attorney may be able to negotiate a settlement with the employer
- File a lawsuit on the victim’s behalf
- Protect the victim from retaliation and ensure that their legal rights are upheld
- Hold their employer accountable for their actions and pursue justice for the harm they have suffered
Assert your rights under the law today
Understanding quid pro quo sexual harassment is necessary to ensure safe and respectful workplaces for all employees.
Employers must take responsibility for preventing and addressing this type of harassment, and employees must understand their rights and the avenues for reporting and seeking support.
If you’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, our experienced team can help you find relief today.
What is quid pro quo sexual harassment?
Quid pro quo harassment involves a scenario where a supervisor or someone in a position of power demands sexual favors from an employee in exchange for job benefits, such as promotions or salary raises.
It can also happen when an employee is threatened with negative consequences if they reject sexual advances.
What is an example of a quid pro quo?
An example of a quid pro quo in sexual harassment is when an employee is threatened with losing their job or receiving disciplinary action if they don’t comply with their supervisor’s sexual advances.
What is the difference between quid pro quo harassment and a hostile work environment?
Quid pro quo harassment involves a direct exchange of sexual favors for job benefits or the threat of negative consequences if the favors aren’t granted.
In contrast, a hostile work environment refers to pervasive and unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment.
How to prove quid pro quo harassment
To prove quid pro quo harassment, victims must provide evidence that a supervisor or someone in a position of power demanded sexual favors in exchange for job benefits or threatened negative consequences if an employee did not grant the favors.
Evidence can include emails, text messages, audio recordings, or witness statements.