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Quid Pro Quo Harassment Claims

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What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Quid Pro Quo Harassment is a type of workplace sexual harassment. It occurs when a supervisor or employer requests an employee to provide sexual favors in return for promotions, career advancement, or other types of benefits. Quid pro quo sexual harassment includes not only direct verbal requests, but also non-verbal communication and physical conduct.

Quid pro quo harassment is only one of many different types of sexual harassment in the workplace. The other most common form is sexual harassment is hostile work environment sexual harassment. Hostile work environment refers to an overall atmosphere of inappropriateness or hostility in the workplace, whereas quid quo pro involves specific requests in exchange for benefits.

However, the differences between these two main types of workplace sexual harassment can be subtle. Sexual harassment claims may sometimes involve both types. 

What Are Some Examples of Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

The most common example of quid pro quo sexual harassment is where the employer offers the employee a promotion in exchange for a sexual favor. However, quid pro quo harassment can include many other types of situations, such as:

  • Withholding benefits from the employee if they refuse to participate in the requests
  • Penalizing the employee for refusing to participate
  • Making work project opportunities conditional upon the sexual request
  • Threatening to terminate the employee if they do not participate
  • Formulates employee evaluations based on their willingness to cooperate with sexual advances

Thus, quid pro quo harassment can also involve threats to the employee, not only offers for benefits.  In such cases the employer uses their position as leverage in order to intimidate the worker into complying with the request.

Who Has the Burden of Proof in a Quid Pro Quo Harassment Claim?

When a quid pro quo harassment claim is filed, the employer is said to have the “burden of proof” in most jurisdictions. This means that it is up to the employer to prove that they did not engage in the sexual harassment. Also, quid pro quo harassment may result even if the employee submits to the employer’s requests.  

In addition, an employer cannot engage in “retaliatory discharge” in response to a harassment claim being filed against them. Retaliatory discharge means that the employer has fired the employee because they lodged a complaint against them. Retaliatory discharge is illegal and cannot occur even if the employee loses the harassment lawsuit.   

What Are the Remedies for Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Legal remedies for quid pro quo harassment usually involve monetary relief for the plaintiff in the form of compensatory damages. A compensatory damages award may allow the plaintiff to:

  • Recover losses such as lost wages, lost benefits, or lost opportunities
  • Be reinstituted to their former employment position if they were fired
  • Recover other related losses like pain and suffering or emotional distress (in some instances only)

Punitive damages awards can sometimes be issued in a quid pro sexual harassment claim. These are meant to “punish” or discourage the defendant from repeating their unlawful conduct. Punitive damages awards are only issued if the employer had demonstrated malicious intent or reckless indifference to the worker’s legal rights. Also, punitive damages awards cannot be issued unless compensatory damages are also awarded.

Finally, the employee typically needs to file their complaint with a government agency before they can sue their employer in a civil court of law. Relief may come from the government agency itself, for example if the agency requires the employer to institute new work policies. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Quid Pro Quo Harassment Issue?

The assistance of an employment lawyer is generally necessary when filing any type of harassment claim. This is true even if a complaint is being filed with a government agency rather than through the court system. A qualified attorney in your area can help you gather all the documents and evidence you’ll be needing to prove your claim. Also, your lawyer can represent you in court in a formal lawsuit.   

Photo of page author Peter Clarke

, LegalMatch Content Manager

Last Modified: 06-04-2015 03:48 PM PDT

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