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How is Quid Pro Quo Harassment Defined?

September 13th, 2021
Quid Pro Quo Harassment

The term quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that describes the act of giving something on the condition that you will receive something in return. It can apply to many different scenarios, and one of them is quid pro quo sexual harassment.

What is Workplace Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Workplace quid pro quo harassment is an inappropriate request for sexual favors that is made by a superior. For example, a male manager may tell a female employee that he will give her a promotion in return for sex.

This is a very blatant form of quid pro quo harassment, but it can come in more subtle forms. On the other end of the spectrum, a workplace superior may make direct physical contact of a sexual nature.

In addition to instances of harassment that take place between an employee and a supervisor, job applicants sometimes experience quid pro quo harassment.

Is There a Legal Remedy for Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is considered the landmark piece of legislation that ended racial segregation in public spaces. This issue was at the root of the effort to pass reforms, but there are other elements contained within the measure.

It also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and acts of quid pro quo harassment are in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

How Do You Know You Have a Case?

There are certain elements that must be proved to meet the standard of quid pro quo harassment in a legal sense. First, the act must be committed by someone who is a superior because the ability to provide some type of career benefit is part of the equation.

Of course, a co-worker who is not a supervisor could certainly engage in an act of sexual harassment, but it would not be quid pro quo harassment.

The person who is making the claim must be an employee of the company in question, or they could be a job applicant. There must be a clear instance of a physical sexual advance or a verbal request for sexual favors in return for a work-related benefit.

With regard to the favor that would be granted to the person who is being harassed, it would not be confined to a raise or some type of advancement. A supervisor may threaten to fire someone unless they grant a sexual request.

Ultimately, the plaintiff in a quid pro quo harassment case must prove that the actions of the harasser were harmful. The actual loss of a job or an unfair demotion would be examples of the type of direct harm that could be caused.

How can Employers Prevent Sexual Harassment?

Quid pro quo harassment is specific to actions between a superior and a subordinate, and as mentioned, there are other types of sexual harassment. If you are a decision-maker for a company, you should take the right steps to prevent harassment in your workplace.

First and foremost, you should develop a cogent sexual harassment policy. Everyone on the upper management team should be in agreement so there is an authentic, unified effort to create a nonhostile environment.

You should establish specific rules and make sure that all your employees fully understand the guidelines that you have put in place. Your employee handbook should include your sexual harassment policy, and it should state that employees who violate the guidelines will be subject to dismissal.

The policy should clearly spell out the steps that employees can take to report instances of sexual harassment. It should go into detail about the reporting process for quid pro quo harassment, since a victim may ordinarily report to someone who is harassing them.

When you make a concerted effort to take a stand against sexual harassment in your business, you are doing the right thing in a general sense. From a legal perspective, you can always make a case that your company has done everything in its power to prevent sexual harassment.

To this end, you can have all your employees sign a document stating that they have read and fully understand your sexual harassment policy.

You can reinforce your stance through ongoing training classes. On an annual or semiannual basis, you can meet with your supervisors and your employees separately to review the policy and provide them with updates.

How Should Employers Address Sexual Harassment Complaints?

If you receive a sexual harassment complaint from an employee, whether it is a quid pro quo matter or a different type of harassment, you should follow certain prescribed steps.

First, you may have personally hired and promoted the person who is being accused of an act of sexual harassment. You may like the individual, and they may play an important role in your company.

It can be hard to discipline or fire the employee, but you must keep an open mind and put yourself in the shoes of the person who is making the complaint. At the end of the day, you have a responsibility to all your employees, and there is potential legal liability.

When someone comes forward to make a sexual harassment complaint, especially if it is a quid pro quo matter involving a superior, they are taking an enormous risk. Their livelihood is at stake, but this is only part of the equation.

Someone who has been harassed may be embarrassed by the matter, and they may be afraid of accusations that they encouraged the behavior. You should empathize with an employee who is in this position and make them understand that there will be no acts of retaliation.

After you are finished speaking with the employee, you should research the allegation. You can seek out any witnesses who may have been present, and you may be able to get general insight from third parties.

If you do not believe you are qualified to investigate the claim yourself, you can bring in a private investigator who has expertise in this field.

What are the Potential Damages for Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

When a lawsuit is filed, the plaintiff is seeking damages from the defendant. Compensatory damages are awarded as a form of compensation for losses. Special compensatory damages are direct monetary losses that are easily provable.

In a quid pro quo harassment case, a special compensatory damage can be a loss of wages because you were fired for refusing to provide sexual favors. Future monetary losses can also fall into this category.

General compensatory damages are not directly monetary in nature. If you experience mental anguish after being harassed, this would be a general compensatory damage.

There are also punitive damages, which are meant as a form of punishment for a defendant who has committed an especially egregious and malicious act. These damages are far less common than compensatory damages.

Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C., are Ready to Discuss Your Quid Pro Quo Harassment Case

If you have been a victim of quid pro quo harassment, the Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C., stand ready to help you. It can be difficult to discuss this type of matter with someone you have just met. We fully understand this dynamic, and you can rest assured that we go the extra mile to make our clients feel comfortable from the start. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Cherry Hill, South Jersey.

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