Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Claims in the Workplace

quid pro quo sexual harassment

Although there are many laws in place to prevent it, sexual harassment is still a major problem in many workplaces. It’s crucial to understand that in California, all types of sexual harassment are strictly prohibited in employment settings. In addition to hostile work environment claims, employees should also be aware that quid pro quo sexual harassment is another type of illegal conduct prohibited in places of work in California.

What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

“Quid pro quo” is a Latin phrase meaning “something for something.” In the workplace, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or manager offers to provide the employee with something — such as a raise or promotion — in exchange for the employee complying with their sexual demand. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can also take the form of the threat of a negative employment action. For instance, an employer or supervisor might threaten termination or demotion if the employee does not grant their sexual request.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment might not only happen during the course of employment, but during the hiring process as well. Critically, unlike a hostile working environment, which is created by coworkers and others on equal footing, quid pro quo harassment can only be committed by someone who is in a position of authority.

How is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Established?

To establish a legal claim for quid pro quo sexual harassment, there are several elements that an employee must be able to prove. Specifically, you are required to show the following:

  • You were employed by the defendant or applied for a job with the company;
  • The employer or one of their agents made unwanted sexual comment, advances, or requests;
  • Job benefits were conditioned upon your acceptance of the harasser’s requests or conduct;
  • You suffered harm as a result of the harasser’s conduct; and
  • The harasser’s actions were a substantial factor in causing you to be harmed.

To assert a claim for sexual harassment, the conduct must be unwelcome — which is not the same as “nonconsensual.” Even if you complied with the employer’s request, their actions would still meet the criteria for harassment if you did not welcome it.

You also need to be able to demonstrate that the sexual harassment resulted in an adverse employment action such as termination or demotion. In other words, the employer or supervisor must have followed through with the threat in order for an employee to have a valid claim. If they failed to do so, an employee would not have grounds to assert a quid pro quo claim, but the employee may still have a hostile work environment claim.

Legal Remedies for Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

If you were subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace and suffered an adverse employment action as a result, you may be entitled to pursue a legal remedy. A plaintiff who prevails in a lawsuit for workplace sexual harassment may be able to recover their past and future lost wages, lost employment benefits, attorney’s fees, compensatory damages, and punitive damages in some cases. An employee may also be reinstated to their previous position if they were wrongfully terminated.

Contact an Experienced California Employment Law Attorney

Being subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace can be humiliating, degrading, stressful, and emotionally overwhelming. If you were subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment by your employer or a supervisor, a knowledgeable employment law attorney can advise you regarding your legal rights and remedies.

At Optimum Employment Lawyers, we understand the toll sexual harassment in the workplace can have on an employee — emotionally and financially. Offering compassionate counsel and high-quality legal services, we strive to hold employers accountable for their wrongful actions and obtain the justice our clients deserve. Contact us at (949) 954-8181 to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Articles, Harassment