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Quid Pro Quo

There are many forms of sexual harassment that can take place within a workplace. However, one of the most well-known types is quid pro quo harassment, which is the act of one person providing services to another in exchange for certain privileges.

This type of behavior can lead to an uncomfortable work environment for the employee for a variety of reasons. Along with the constant abuse they are receiving from the perpetrator, the situation could make for a difficult working relationship with coworkers. Jealously could arise due to the additional privileges the employee is receiving, which may translate into poor treatment of the person. There are also those situations wherein a person who is earning certain privileges will raise the ire of their coworkers due to jealously, who may start to pass along rumors of a quid pro quo relationship that could tarnish a person’s reputation.

No one should have to make the decision between performing certain actions to gain privileges or to avoid punishment at work. It is illegal for anyone to associate work perks with any type of favors. Those who feel as if they are being urged to enter that type of arrangement should contact a sexual harassment lawyer who can help put an end to the situation.

What is Quid Pro Quo?

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that translates into “what for what.” It is the act of an employee urging another to offer favors, most likely sexual in nature, in exchange for privileges at work. Often, the actions are sexual in nature, but that is not always the case. On the other side, the work privileges may not necessarily be of benefit in the office. It could be the promise of getting out of an undesirable chore or a shift someone does not want. Quid pro quo is one of the most common forms of sexual harassment that people will experience in the workforce.

It is important to point out that the victim is always the victim, regardless of their level of participation. If they were pressured to engage in sexual activities in exchange for work privileges, they still have a right to take legal action against the perpetrator. Agreeing to the demands does not allow the victim to share culpability.

Quid pro quo does not have to involve a person participating in the act to qualify. It could be a sign of retaliation as well. An employee who refused a manager’s advances could find themselves with a heavier workload, or not getting their vacation days approved, or another punishment that began after the rejection.

In addition, while a significant majority of cases involve men in the dominant role over a woman, that is not always the case. A woman can also engage in similar behavior with a male underling. In fact, it does not matter the sex of either the victim or the perpetrator as long as the perpetrator exhibits authority or power over the victim. However, women do experience it more, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The report found that approximately 25 to 85 percent of all women experience sexual harassment at work as opposed to almost 17 percent of men.

Does Quid Pro Quo Have to Take Place at Work?

Not all quid prop quo scenarios take place at work. These types of situations can exist in other environments, where one person holds power or authority over another. While the relationship might be different, the basic elements remain. The harasser is seeking sexual services in exchange for a benefit to the victim. Other situations where quid prop quo can take place include:

  • School: In this situation, the teacher and student relationship act in a similar manner to a supervisor and an employee. A teacher make seek sexual favors from a student in exchange for better grades.
  • Rental Unit: The landlord has the authority of their tenants. They might seek sexual favors from someone behind on their rent in exchange for an extension or forgiveness. This can be egregious if the victim has fallen on hard times, and the person is taking advantage of the circumstances.
  • Police: There have been infrequent examples of police officers overstepping their authority in the power they hold over a person who they suspect is guilty of something, such as speeding. The quid pro quo occurs if the officer suggested they will throw out a ticket in exchange for sexual favors.

It is also possible for a quid pro quo situation to extend beyond the office or the classroom. Online technology gives unprecedented access to everyone. It is possible for a harasser to continue to torment their victim at home via an email, text, or in a chat room. However, the benefit for the victim here is that there will be written evidence of the person’s actions that they should keep for a future complaint.

What are the Emotional Ramifications of a Quid Pro Quo Situation?

It is estimated that more than five million people experience quid pro quo sexual harassment, and almost all of them chose not to report it, according to a study by the University of Massachusetts Amherst. With so many people remaining silent, they simply live with the trauma of what they are experiencing.

Victims can suffer emotional ramifications and mental health problems which then translate into physical effects. Common emotional problems can include:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Betrayal
  • Powerlessness
  • Humiliation
  • Shame
  • Loss of motivation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance abuse
  • Panic attacks

These emotional and mental challenges that victims must endure can eventually manifest themselves into physical problems, such as:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Eating disorders
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Higher stress levels                                               

What Laws Regulate Quid Pro Quo?

There are laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that address quid pro quo. The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRC) prohibits employment discrimination, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) addresses it, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 handles it at the federal level.

There are laws that are even more localized, such as the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance, which covers all types of sexual harassment in workplaces in the city. All companies within the city limits that have at least one employee are covered under this law. It defines quid pro quo as a “favor for a favor.” Under this definition, what qualifies as a quid pro quo is when an employer requests any type of favor in exchange for a substantial raise. The law also covers those who reject the offer and face retaliation.

The NJLAD prohibits sexual harassment in all offices. The law treats quid pro quo circumstances similarly to how the Philadelphia law handles it. A manager requesting sexual favors for job advancement or retaliation against an employee who rejects their advances are all considered quid pro quo.

What is Not a Quid Pro Quo Situation?

Not every inappropriate situation is an example of quid pro quo sexual harassment. There are those that, while awkward and perhaps illegal, do not meet the specific definition of quid pro quo. Understanding what is and what is not can a help a person determine how they will respond to an action.

Some examples of non-quid pro quo include:

  • When a manager and a subordinate engage in an intimate relationship that is consensual and it has no impact on workflow.
  • A consensual relationship between two employees who do not have any influence over each other.
  • An agreement between two individuals whereby something is provided in exchange for work favors as long as those services are not sexual in nature. This type of situation may be illegal and inappropriate, but it is not an example of a quid pro quo.
  • A case of sexual harassment that does not involve a specific request for sexual favors in exchange for workplace privileges. However, it is still harassment.

While there are certain situations, such as an intimate relationship between two coworkers, that could be distracting or annoying to fellow coworkers, they are not illegal. It is important to gather as much information about a situation before reacting to it.

How can I Prove I am a Victim of Quid Pro Quo?

There are options for those who have been victimized by a manager who sought sexual favors in exchange for workplace perks. A lawsuit can be filed against the individual and the employer if it failed to act. To prevail in the lawsuit, there must be certain elements that a victim and their sexual harassment lawyer will have to prove in court. Those include:

  • The victim was employed by or was trying to gain employment with the defendant company.
  • The harasser subjected the victim to unwanted sexual advances, or the harasser engaged in unwanted and sexualized physical contact or verbal conduct toward the victim.
  • Specific benefits were communicated to the victim, conditioned on accepting the sexual advances or sexual conduct of the harasser. Also, employment decisions were made based on whether the plaintiff rejected or accepted sexual advances or sexual conduct.
  • The harasser was either a supervisor or an agent of the company at the time of the harassment.
  • The alleged conduct harmed the victim.
  • The conduct of the harasser directly contributed to the harm of the victim.

Speaking to a lawyer about the matter is beneficial as they can provide the proper advice on how to proceed in these situations.

What can I Do if I Suspect I am a Quid Pro Quo Victim?

There are several options available to victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment. The main goals are to get the behavior to stop and to allow the victim to function at work in a comfortable environment that is free of any inappropriate pressures.

If someone believes that they have become a victim of quid prop quo sexual harassment, there are steps they should take. If the first step does not yield a satisfactory outcome, then they should move on to the next one. The steps include:

  • Confront the harasser. The person who has been made to feel uncomfortable should speak directly to the person responsible and demand that they stop. Understandably, this can be difficult if the employee is too traumatized to confront their harasser. If a person does choose to confront them, they should not do it alone, they should take someone along to act as a witness. They can also submit a written request detailing the situation and the request.
  • Research policies. If the first step fails or the employee is uncomfortable facing the accuser directly, they should research their company’s policy on sexual harassment. Given how sensitive many firms are on this matter, most have implemented policies that make it easier for victims to file a complaint. For those having difficulty locating the policy, they should reach out to their human resources (HR) department for help.
  • File a report. The victim should then make a formal report to their HR department per the company policy. This may still be uncomfortable for the accuser; however, it is a critical step as it is a way to get the behavior to stop and start a paper trail about the abuse.
  • Determine if it should be reported to a state or federal agency. If the employee is not seeing any significant progress within the company, or the person suspects that HR or a supervisor buried the complaint, the next step is to report the company to a federal or state agency. At the federal level, it would be the EEOC, and at the state level, it would be the PHRC or the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.
  • File a lawsuit. When all else fails, consult with a sexual harassment lawyer about the possibility and likelihood of filing a lawsuit against the company and those individuals who might be in the wrong. A lawsuit can punish the company for its actions and help compensate the victim.

While a lawsuit should not be the first option a person takes, it is not a bad idea to contact a sexual harassment lawyer early in the process who can help consult on the various stages. A lawyer will help a victim determine how best to collect evidence and how to report the incident to the company and whatever government agency is the most appropriate.

What can I Seek in a Lawsuit for Quid Pro Quo?

When the situation gets to the point where a lawsuit is necessary, there are several remedies that the victim can seek. They can request financial compensation for their emotional turmoil or a non-monetary reward pertaining to fixing the culture at the company. Among the relief a victim can ask for includes:

  • Lost Wages: A victim might have been fired for failing to comply, meaning they lost out on wages they would have otherwise earned.
  • Medical Expenses: The anxiety and stress associated with what is going on at work could cause physical and mental ailments that might require medical attention. A lawsuit can seek reimbursement for those expenses as long as the person can prove that they were caused by the incidents at work.
  • Emotional Distress: The trauma of dealing with a person pushing the victim to perform services they are not comfortable doing can lead to emotional problems that require treatment.
  • Pain and Suffering: That mental trauma can lead to physical ailments, which the victim is entitled to be compensated for.
  • Reinstatement: If an employee was wrongfully terminated for not agreeing to go along with the harasser’s demands or a promotion was blocked, the victim can seek to have those advancements reinstated.
  • Non-Monetary Requests: A person can request that changes be made at the company to prevent future situations from arising. They can request that the company adopt a policy to address quid pro quo harassment in the future or other changes that will protect workers going forward.

To determine if one is eligible to pursue a lawsuit for quid pro quo harassment, it is advisable to seek advice from a lawyer as soon as possible.

Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Fight to Protect Victims of Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

If you are feeling pressure at work to perform inappropriate favors for your boss, then you may have a case against them or possibly the company. The Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. will fight for your rights and make sure that quid pro quo harassment stops in your workplace. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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