What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

By Daisy Rogozinsky
/
January 18, 2023

Quid quo pro is one type of workplace sexual harassment that is illegal under United States federal law. Victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment have the option to take legal action against their harasser in order to recover damages.

What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Quid quo pro is a type of sexual harassment defined under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In Latin, “quid pro quo” translates to “something for something.” 

To that end, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a superior demands sexual favors in exchange for a benefit such as hiring or a promotion, or if an employee suffers an adverse action such as firing or demotion as a result of their refusal to submit to a superior’s sexual demands. 

Even just hinting that or implying that an employment action will be taken or not taken depending on whether or not an individual will comply with sexual advances counts as quid pro quo harassment. 

Examples of Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Some examples of quid pro quo harassment include:

  • A job interviewer offering the interviewee the job if they comply with sexual demands
  • A job interviewer refusing to give an individual a job because they will not comply with sexual demands
  • Offering job perks such as relocation, promotion, or better hours in exchange for sexual favors
  • A supervisor threatening to fire an employee if they do not comply with sexual demands
  • A supervisor firing an employee after they put an end to a sexual relationship

Note that the victim may still file a sexual harassment claim whether or not they complied with the harasser’s demands.

The Elements of a Quid Pro Quo Harassment Claim

To win a quid pro quo sexual harassment case, a plaintiff must be able to provide evidence proving the following elements.

  • The plaintiff was an employee of the defendant company or applied to a job with the company
  • The alleged harasser was an employee or officer of the defendant company
  • The alleged harasser made unwelcome sexual advances to the plaintiff or engaged in unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
  • The alleged harasser made employment benefits conditional on the plaintiff’s acceptance of their sexual advances through either words or conduct, or made employment decisions on the basis of the plaintiff’s acceptance or rejection of the alleged conduct
  • The plaintiff was harmed by the alleged conduct
  • The alleged harasser’s conduct caused harm to the plaintiff

In essence, the court is seeking evidence the sexual harassment not only happened but that it resulted in a relevant employment action. 

Damages in a Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Victims may sue the perpetrator of sexual harassment in order to recover damages. Possible damages that can be recovered in a quid pro quo sexual harassment case include:

  • Lost wages
  • Lost benefits
  • Lost employment opportunities
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages, or damages awarded to discourage the defendant from taking similar actions in the future, are possible but rarely rewarded

The plaintiff can also sue to receive their job back if they were fired. 

How to Take Legal Action

Victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment may take legal action against the individual perpetrator and/or the company itself. However, before an individual can sue for sexual harassment, they must first file a complaint with a state and/or federal labor protection agency such as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC requires victims to file their complaint within 180 days of the last instance of sexual harassment. 

Once an individual files a sexual harassment complaint with the EEOC, the agency will investigate the case. In rare cases, the EEOC will choose to file a lawsuit on the victim’s behalf. However, it is more likely that they will close their investigation by sending the victim a Notice of Right to Sue. It is only with this document in hand that a sexual harassment victim may proceed to file a lawsuit against their company. 

If you have experienced quid quo pro sexual harassment from your employer or a potential employer, taking legal action may be the best way to receive the closure and justice you deserve, as well as be compensated for your losses. If you are interested in suing for sexual harassment, it is highly recommended that you speak to an experienced attorney early on in the process. They will be able to help you with a number of things, including:

  • Determining whether or not your case is worth pursuing
  • Filing your complaint with the EEOC
  • Filing a lawsuit
  • Gathering evidence to build a case against your harasser
  • Calculating your damages
  • Guiding you through the entire lawsuit process
  • Working to help you win the maximum possible amount

For a free review of your sexual harassment case, contact a lawyer today.

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