What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

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What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

Oct 9, 2020

Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a proposed exchange:

“If you (the survivor) do a sexual act for me…
Then I (the perpetrator) will do something for you.”

Directly translated, the Latin phrase “quid pro quo” means “this for that.” This type of sexual harassment is most often encountered in the workplace. A common example of a quid pro quo sexual harassment scenario involves an employee being considered for a promotion and a manager either directly saying (or suggesting) that the employee will have a better chance of securing the promotion if she or he agrees to engage in any type of intimate behavior with said manager.

The crux of quid pro quo sexual harassment is the harasser’s position of power relative to the survivor. In instances of quid pro quo sexual harassment, the harasser has the authority to either promise a benefit to the survivor or threaten him or her with a workplace consequence.

Two Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission identifies two types of sexual harassment claims: quid pro quo (as explained above) and hostile environment. Section 1604.11(a) of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) defines quid pro quo harassment very clearly in the following terms:

  • “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, [and when] (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual.”

In other words, quid pro quo sexual harassment entails an unwelcome request for a sexual act that – whether accepted or rejected – will have a correlating consequence or effect (typically affecting one’s employment).

Additionally, section 1604.11(a) of the CFR defines hostile environment sexual harassment as:

  • “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment … [when] such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

In other words, hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome requests for sexual acts result in a difficult or intimidating workplace.

Examples of hostile workplace environment sexual harassment can include comments, jokes, conversations, actions, or images of a sexual nature that are accepted in a work environment and make an employee (or multiple employees) uncomfortable. Such a work environment can lead to low employee morale and potentially poor job performance. Employees often feel unsafe in hostile workplace environments and are unable to perform to their full potential. For instance, if a company’s accepted culture entails employees making sexist jokes or lewd comments during meetings, this could very well cause an attendee to avoid speaking during the meeting or conversing with others during downtime.

Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Illegal?

Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Illegal?
Absolutely. All forms of workplace sexual harassment were made illegal by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition to facing civil lawsuits, perpetrators of sexual harassment may be criminally liable and face potential jail time.

Therefore, a victim of quid pro quo harassment has multiple legal options. Survivors of such harassment can:

  1. File a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH)
  2. Bring a lawsuit in civil court
  3. Potentially file criminal charges

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

The first option, filing a complaint with the California DFEH, allows employees the chance to negotiate with the employer and mediate the situation. However, if the DFEH finds that the harassment was not severe enough to qualify as illegal quid pro quo sexual harassment, then the survivor may want to proceed with filing a complaint in civil court.

Civil Lawsuit for Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

California law specifies what a survivor plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) must prove to win his or her quid pro quo sexual harassment claim against an employer.

Quid pro quo harassment” is defined in California’s Fair Employment & Housing Council Regulations as “explicit or implicit conditioning of a job or promotion on an applicant or employee’s submission to sexual advances or other conduct based on sex.”

The survivor plaintiff must prove all of the following elements:

  • Employment Status: The plaintiff was either an employee of the harasser, was applying to the harasser for a job, or was providing services to the harasser pursuant to a contract between the two parties.
  • Proof of Harassment: The harasser made unwanted sexual advances towards the plaintiff or engaged in other unwanted verbal or physical sexual conduct.
  • Promised Benefits to the Survivor: The terms of employment, job benefits, or favorable working conditions were made contingent by words or conduct on the plaintiff’s acceptance of the harasser’s sexual advances or conduct.
  • Proof of Employment: At the time of the harasser’s conduct, the harasser was a supervisor or agent for the defendant employer.
  • Proof of Harm to Survivor: The survivor plaintiff was harmed by the harasser’s conduct.
  • Causation: The harasser’s conduct was a “substantial factor in causing” the plaintiffs harm.

California law holds employers to a high standard for sexual harassment that occurs in the workplace. Employers are required to have the best interest of their employees in mind and work hard to keep them safe. Thus, when an employer is taking advantage of their position of power and pressuring (or even forcing) employees to perform sexual favors, the consequences are serious.

Dordulian Law Group has successfully assisted countless survivors of workplace sexual harassment in recovering financial damages awards. We are here to help you with your quid pro quo sexual harassment case, and will fight to ensure you are properly compensated for your unfortunate experience(s).

Example Situations: Threats Versus Promised “Benefits”

Quid pro quo sexual harassment can come in two forms – one where the perpetrator promises a benefit to the survivor, and the other where the perpetrator either threatens to take away something positive or give something negative to the survivor. Some benefit examples include: a raise, promotion, positive review, future job recommendation, preferred work project or work schedule, etc.

Some negative consequence examples include: firing or letting go, demotion, a negative performance review, denial of a deserved promotion, unreasonable or unfavorable work schedule or assignments, etc.

Unfortunate but all-too-common scenarios that qualify as quid pro quo sexual harassment include:

  • A manager requesting sexual favors as a condition for hiring, promotion, advancement, or opportunities
  • A supervisor threatening to fire, transfer, demote, or otherwise negatively affect an employee’s work-life if that employee does not give or continue to give sexual favors
  • A supervisor promising or giving an employee a raise or promotion in exchange for actual or promised future sexual favors
  • A CEO giving an employee a favorable assignment (such as a ticket to a company convention in Las Vegas) with the expectation that the employee will repay this with sexual favors

Sexual Harassment and Quid Pro Quo Statistics

  • More than 7,500 sexual harassment claims were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the fiscal year 2018 (a 14 percent increase from 2017).
  • According to a 2018 survey study, nearly 81% of women and 43% of men said they experienced sexual harassment or assault at least once in their lifetime. And 13% of women and 5% of men reported quid pro quo sexual harassment.
  • An NBC News and Wall Street Journal poll from 2017 found that approximately 48% of women in the United States report experiencing sexual, verbal, or physical harassment at work.
  • A recent study by Quinnipiac University found that 60 percent of women report being survivors of sexual harassment (three-quarters of which say the harassment took place at work).

The Importance of Speaking Up

The negative effects of quid pro quo sexual harassment can be long-term and often remain with survivors years after the harassment occurred. For instance, survivor employees who continue at a workplace where harassment occurred can face criticism from coworkers or managers. ‘He said, She said‘ rumors may circulate and threaten the survivor’s professional credibility. This is one of several reasons why it is so important for survivors of quid pro quo harassment to file a civil complaint the first time an incident occurs. While we understand that discussing something so personal and impactful may be difficult, the more victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment come forward, the more harassers will have to face the consequences of their unacceptable actions. Moreover, potential harassers may be deterred from committing quid pro quo sexual harassment if they see others being held accountable.

How Long After the Harassment Can a Survivor File a Complaint?

As of January 1, 2020, survivors of workplace sexual harassment must first file a complaint with the California DFEH within three years after the quid pro quo harassment occurs. California AB 9, a new law passed in 2019 and put into effect in 2020, extended that time limit from one year to three years. Survivors who were assaulted prior to January 1, 2019 were required to file complaints within one year of the misconduct, and are therefore bound to that time limit. A complaint must be filed with DFEH before a survivor can proceed with filing a workplace harassment lawsuit in California. The survivor must wait for the DFEH to issue a “right to sue” notice. DLG has over 25 years of experience in successful workplace sexual harassment lawsuits, and we are here to answer any questions you have while guiding you through the legal process from start to finish.

How Much Compensation Can a Plaintiff in a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Receive?

Survivors of workplace sexual harassment who decide to pursue a legal claim for the quid pro quo harassment they suffered can recover monetary damages. For instance, survivors can be compensated for the wages they lost as a result of the harassment. This can include lost wages for a promotion that the survivor was denied due to refusing a sexual advance. Or, if a survivor is forced to quit his or her job as a result of the sexual harassment, this constitutes “constructive discharge,” which is a form of wrongful termination and allows the survivor to obtain compensation for the wages lost when they were forced to quit. In some cases, a court can order that the employee be reinstated to their position.

Survivors can also receive monetary damages for emotional distress caused by the sexual harassment. In severe cases where an employer may have acted with extreme carelessness, a court may also award punitive damages. Punitive damages are often awarded if the claimant establishes that the employer acted with malice or reckless indifference to her or his rights. Punitive damages in quid pro quo sexual harassment cases are meant to serve as an additional punishment or deterrent.

Contact our top-rated team of expert sexual abuse attorneys online or by phone today to pursue justice and secure a financial award for damages.

Why is Dordulian Law Group The Best Choice For a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?

At Dordulian Law Group we want our clients to feel secure, safe, and confident in our legal abilities. Our attorneys have extensive experience and expertise that sets DLG apart from other law firms. Specifically, DLG has a team of Sexual Assault Justice Experts (SAJE) assigned to each sexual harassment case to provide survivor clients with four-tiers of comprehensive representation (as opposed to a single attorney handling your claim). The SAJE Team is comprised of Samuel Dordulian (the founder of DLG and a former Deputy District Attorney), Chief Investigator Moses Castillo (a former LAPD Sex Crimes Division Detective), a licensed Clinical therapist with 15 years of experience helping sexual assault survivors, and two Victim Advocates who are available to DLG clients 24/7.

While survivors who decide to pursue legal action have many choices when selecting a Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney, we are confident that DLG is the right choice for you given our unique, all-encompassing SAJE Team representation. Our four-tiered structure is designed to address multiple needs facing survivors and provide every client with the kind of overall support they deserve. A survivor plaintiff’s future depends directly on the outcome of the case, so choosing the best possible attorney is of utmost importance. DLG has a 99% success rate in sexual assault and harassment cases, and we have successfully recovered more than $100 million for our clients over the years. Furthermore, the DLG team has over 25 years of experience successfully representing a wide range of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment survivors.

If you are someone you love would like to file a civil lawsuit for a sexual harassment, abuse, or assault claim, please do not hesitate to contact DLG. Call us at (800) 880-777 or contact us online for a free consultation about your case today.

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