Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment: Common Examples
| Read Time: 3 minutes | Sexual Harassment

You have a legal right to a workplace free of sexual harassment. Workplace sexual harassment is illegal under both federal and state law. If you experienced sexual harassment in the workplace in California, you might be entitled to compensation under the state’s Fair Employment and House Act (FEHA). Read on to learn more about quid pro quo sexual harassment and what you can do about it.

What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

“Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase that means “this for that.” It is one of two forms of sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This type of harassment occurs when someone in a supervisory position demands sexual favors—explicitly or implicitly—from an employee in exchange for a favorable work situation or to avoid a negative one. 

If your boss promises to give you a raise or a promotion if you have sex with them, it is quid pro quo sexual harassment. Similarly, if an employee or job applicant rejects their superior’s sexual advances and that superior fires them or declines to offer them a job because of the rejection, it is quid quo pro harassment. The hallmark of quid pro quo harassment is that the person making the request or threat can follow through. If the person is not in a position to follow through, the victim will likely have a sexual harassment claim for a hostile work environment but not a quid pro quo claim.

The following are a few quid pro quo sexual harassment common examples.

Being Offered a Job in Exchange for Sexual Favors 

Quid pro quo harassment is illegal during the job application process. If you go on a job interview and the person interviewing you offers you a job if you agree to do something sexual for them, it is quid pro quo sexual harassment. Likewise, if they refuse to give you a job because you won’t agree to their demands, it is quid pro quo sexual harassment. In this situation, you could file a harassment claim even if you never work for the employer.

Being Offered Favorable Job Conditions in Exchange for Sexual Favors 

When a supervisor in a position to influence a subordinate’s employment status offers job perks in exchange for sexual favors, it is quid pro quo sexual harassment. Examples include offering a raise, better work hours, a promotion, a favorable transfer, or workplace perks like cars and vacations.

Threatening to Terminate an Employee If They End a Consensual Relationship 

When a supervisor dates an employee and that employee wants to break up, reacting by threatening the employee with termination or other unfavorable job consequences is quid pro quo harassment. This power imbalance is one of the reasons companies often discourage or prohibit supervisors from dating employees that report to them.

Can I File a Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?

To hold your employer legally responsible for quid pro quo harassment, you must be able to prove certain elements. They are:

  • You are a member of a protected class for the purpose of title VII;
  • You were employed by the company or were applying for a job with the company where the harasser worked;
  • The harasser worked in a supervisory position for the company or was an agent of the company in a supervisory role;
  • The harasser made unwanted sexual advances or engaged in unwanted verbal or physical conduct that was sexual;
  • The harasser directly or indirectly told you that you would receive certain job benefits or be hired if you accepted their advances and that you would not receive these benefits or be penalized or not be hired if you rejected them; and
  • The harasser’s advances or conduct harmed you.

Usually, you must file a sexual harassment complaint in California with the state’s Civil Right Department before you can sue in court. You can also consult a sexual harassment employment lawyer. An experienced sexual harassment attorney will review your claim, discuss the process, and help you determine your best course of action.

When Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Considered Sexual Assault?

If a supervisor forces you into sexual acts, either through threats or physical coercion or while you are incapacitated, it is sexual assault. If you were sexually assaulted or are in danger, don’t wait to file a claim with the state. Call 911 right away and report your supervisor’s actions.

King & Siegel LLP Can Help

At King & Siegel LLP, we fight for people dealing with wrongdoing in the workplace throughout California. Our sexual harassment attorneys are not afraid to go toe-to-toe with your employer, and will stand by your side from your claim’s start to finish. Whether you’ve experienced sexual harassment or merely want to explore your rights and options, we offer free, 30-minute consultations. Contact us today. You pay us only if you win.

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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