Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment vs. Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment
Our Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers are experienced in representing victims of both types of sexual harassment: Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment and “Hostile Work Environment” sexual harassment. “Quid Pro Quo” sexual harassment occurs when an employer, or an employer’s agent, implicitly or explicitly, attempts to make submission to sexual demands a condition of employment. Therefore, employers improperly attach terms of employment, such as promotions or raises, to the exchange for sexual favors. “Hostile Work Environment” sexual harassment results from verbal or physical conduct that creates such an intimidating, hostile, offensive or sexually charged work environment for employees of particular gender that it interferes with the employees’ ability to perform their jobs.
“Quid pro quo” literally means “something for something.” In a sexual harassment scenario, the term “Quid Pro Quo” essentially describes a situation where the employer pressures an employee, implicitly or explicitly, for sexual favors in exchange for favorable treatment in the workplace – raises, better working conditions, promotions. As a result, an employee may perceive that he or she must tolerate sexual advances or engage in a sexual relationship in order to continue employment, to achieve advancement, or to avoid adverse employment consequences such as poor evaluations or demotions. In essence, an individual is intimidated and is forced to choose between suffering an adverse employment action, such as not getting a promotion or possible demotion or termination, and submitting to sexual demands.
Because “Quid Pro Quo” sexual harassment directly links the granting or withholding of employee benefits to compliance/non-compliance with sexual advances, only someone in a supervisory capacity with the authority to grant and withhold such benefits can engage in “Quid Pro Quo” sexual harassment. Therefore, for a “Quid Pro Quo” harassment claim to be successful, an employee must demonstrate that the harasser has authority over him/her and the employee’s employment opportunities. If the demand for sexual favors is made by a co-worker with no power to affect employment opportunities, an employee cannot claim “Quid Pro Quo” harassment, but may be a victim of “Hostile Work Environment” sexual harassment.
“Hostile Work Environment” sexual harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to sexual, abusive, or offensive conduct because of his or her gender. What is a “hostile environment”? A “hostile environment” can be created by anyone in the work environment – supervisors, other employees or customers. “Hostile Work Environment” harassment of a sexual nature can be physical or verbal – the passing or posting of unwelcome sexual materials such as cartoons or posters of a sexual nature, vulgar or lewd conduct or language, and unwanted touching or fondling all fall into this category. However, unlawful “hostile work environment” conduct does not have to be sexual in nature nor does it not have to involve physical contact. Offensive conduct creates an unlawful work environment when it is severe or pervasive enough to make a reasonable person of the employee’s gender believe that the conditions of employment have been altered and the working environment has become hostile or abusive. An employer may be held liable for “Hostile Work Environment” sexual harassment as a result of the conduct of its employee if the employer knew or should have known of the offensive employee’s conduct and failed to take prompt remedial action to stop the harassment.