Quid pro quo means “something for something”
Sexual harassment can occur in many different ways in a work environment. For example, a woman may be subjected to a hostile work environment if her male coworkers put of pictures of naked or near-nude women around their shared workspace and make lewd jokes about sex and women to her.
Another common type of sexual harassment is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment. This occurs when an employee’s terms of employment are conditioned on submitting to a supervisor’s sexual advances or demands. As a California sexual harassment attorney can explain, this type of harassment is illegal under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
There are three elements of quid pro quo sexual harassment. First, an employee must experience unwelcome sexual advances, demands, or comments. Second, these advances or demands must have been made by a supervisor. Third, if the employee rejected the sexual advances, demands, or comments, a tangible negative employment action must have occurred.
Quid pro quo harassment may involve either the promise of an employment benefit — like being promoted— or the threat of some type of negative employment action, such as having your hours cut. If the supervisor who made the threat or the promise doesn’t follow through on it, then it will be considered hostile work environment sexual harassment rather than quid pro quo.
Similarly, if the person making the advances, demands, or comments isn’t a supervisor, then it is not quid pro quo sexual harassment because that person doesn’t have the authority to take a negative employment action against the employee. For example, if Maria’s co-worker John propositions her, and threatens to get her demoted if she doesn’t agree to have sex with him, it is not quid pro quo sexual harassment because John cannot get Maria demoted. However, if John is her supervisor — direct or otherwise — then this type of threat would be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment, provided that Maria is demoted for turning John down.
A threat or promise does not have to be explicit in order to be considered sexual harassment. A manager may hint that their employee will be happier at work if they go along with a sexual demand, for example, or that they may find themselves out of work if they don’t agree to it. Both of these situations may still qualify as quid pro quo sexual harassment if the other elements of this type of harassment are met.
If you have been subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment or any other type of harassment in the workplace, a skilled California sexual harassment attorney can advise you of your rights and help you decide how to proceed. This may include filing a report with your boss or the company’s human resources department. If your employer does not appropriately address the issue, you may file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. From there, you may be issued a right-to-sue notice that will allow you to file a lawsuit against your employer. Importantly, it is illegal in California for an employer to retaliate against an employee for filing a complaint about sexual harassment (or other types of harassment). If your employer retaliates against you in some way for filing this type of complaint, that may be another basis for a lawsuit.
At PLBSH, we are committed to helping employees across California achieve justice when they are treated unfairly in the workplace. Contact us today at (800) 435-7542 or email@example.com to schedule a consultation.