The phrase “quid pro quo” refers to a type of workplace sexual harassment. Quid pro quo workplace sexual harassment occurs when a superior requires a subordinate employee to perform sexual favors. If the employee performs the favors, they receive a job benefit, such as a promotion or raise. 

If the person refuses to perform the favor, the superior takes an adverse action against the employee. Adverse actions are negative actions such as demotion and termination.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Title VII of the Civil RIghts of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. It  applies to private employers with 15 or more employees. It also applies to including federal, state and local governments. sexual harassment in the workplace. There are two types of workplace sexual harassment.

The first kind of workplace sexual harassment is hostile work environment harassment. Hostile work environment harassment consists of offensive remarks or conduct on the basis of gender, race, nationality, disability, age, ethnicity, or religion. The harassment is unlawful when an employee’s having to endure the conduct or remarks becomes a term or condition of employment. The harassment is also unlawful when the conduct or remarks are severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive or intimidating workplace.

The second kind of workplace sexual harassment is quid pro quo sexual harassment. Quid pro sexuak harassment occurs when a manager or supervisor promises an employee a job benefit if the employee satisfies a sexual demand. Quid pro quo harassment also occurs when the supervisor promises not to take a negative job action in exchange for sexual favors.

A supervisor engages in quid pro quo harassment when that supervisor threatens that if the sexual favor is not performed, a job benefit will be withheld or an adverse employment action will be taken. For example, a supervisor may demand that unless an employee performs the requested sexual favors, the employee will be terminated.

What are the Elements of A Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Claim?

A plaintiff must satisfy four elements to prove a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim. These are:

  1. The plaintiff is employed by the Defendant company;
  2. A supervisor:
    • Makes unwanted sexual advances to the plaintiff; or
    • Engages in other unwanted sexual conduct;
  3. Job benefits are contingent on the plaintiff’s submitting to the harasser’s demand, or, job decisions affecting the plaintiff’s employment are made based on rejecting or accepting the unwanted conduct; and
  4. The plaintiff was harmed by the supervisor’s conduct.

The job benefit or detriment must be significant. The job detriment must constitute an adverse employment action. Under TItle VII, an adverse job action must be “material.” The adverse action must be something more than a minor alteration in job tasks, or a minor inconvenience. Adverse employment actions include pay cuts, cuts in benefits, giving unfavorable references, and subjecting someone to more burdensome job duties. Adverse employment actions also include unwarranted suspensions and discipline, and giving an employee undeserved performance ratings.

If an employee gives in to the undesired sexual advances, they can file a harassment claim.
An employer may not retaliate against the employee for filing the claim.

What Remedies Does an Employee Have for Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

The plaintiff should report the sexual harassment in accordance with the employer’s sexual harassment policy. That policy usually requires the plaintiff to file a written complaint with an HR Manager or another named person.

The company performs an investigation once it receives and reviews the plaintiff’s complaint. If the complaint is not resolved, the plaintiff must file a charge with the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Center (EEOC) against the employer.

A plaintiff must file a charge with the EEOC within 180 calendar days of the date of discrimination. The deadline is 300 days if the plaintiff’s state has a law prohibiting quid pro quo sexual harassment.

If the EEOC find ssexual harassment occurred, they may file suit on the plaintiff’s behalf. If the EEOC does not find harassment, the plaintiff can file suit in federal court.

If the plaintiff prevails in federal court, they are entitled to compensatory damages. Compensatory damages compensate the plaintiff for expenses they incurred due to harassment. Such expenses include medical expenses and job search expenses. Expenses also include and expenses for mental suffering, pain, or anguish.

The plaintiff may also receive back pay and restoration of job benefits. They can recover fees spent on an attorney, and costs of filing the lawsuit.  A court can order the employer to take steps to prevent future discrimination.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help With a Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Claim?

You should contact an employment law attorney if you believe you suffered quid pro quo sexual harassment. An experienced lawyer near you can explain the relevant law and procedures. In addition, the lawyer can represent you in court.