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What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

Notepad with the words "Workplace Harassment" written in ink in front of a yellow background.

Understanding your legal rights and recourse in the workplace

Quid pro quo (literally, “this for that”) sexual harassment occurs when someone in a position of power demands sexual favors in return for a job benefit. It is one of two types of illegal sexual harassment in the workplace (the other being a hostile work environment, which we covered in our previous blog).

The law has a zero-tolerance view of quid pro quo harassment: it normally only takes a single instance to support a claim. However, it’s still important to know what does and does not qualify as a quid pro quo. An experienced employment law attorney can help you understand your legal rights and protections – and your options for legal recourse if you’ve been harassed.

Examples of quid pro quo harassment

While quid pro quos in popular culture are often overt, in reality, they are usually subtle. However, any direct or indirect implication that your job depends on sexual favors is an illegal quid pro quo. It’s important to remember that both the harasser and victim can be of any gender or sexual orientation.

Hiring and job searches: one form of quid pro quo preys on people who are looking for a job. If an interviewer or hiring manager says or implies that you need to perform a sexual favor to get a job, or to improve your chances of getting a job, that is quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Promotions and raises: if your manager or someone else in a position of authority at your job says or implies that sexual favors will help you get a promotion, raise, preferable hours, or some other benefit, that is quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Firings and layoffs: if your employer is considering downsizing or layoffs, and your boss says or implies that you can improve your chances of keeping your job by performing a sexual favor, that is illegal sexual harassment.

Relationships and breakups: if a supervisor dates an employee, and the employee wants to end that relationship, threatening to fire the employee in retaliation is quid pro quo harassment. (That’s one of the reasons why good employers prohibit relationships between employees with a reporting relationship.)

What all of these scenarios have in common is that the person demanding a sexual favor has the power to follow through. If a coworker who has no hiring, firing, or supervision power tries to threaten your job if you won’t perform a sexual favor, that’s probably not a quid pro quo (although it might contribute to a hostile work environment). But if your supervisor, their supervisor, or someone else in a position of power at your employer does so, then you have a quid pro quo sexual harassment case.

Your legal options if you are sexually harassed at work in West Virginia

The federal Civil Rights Act applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. The West Virginia Human Rights Act protects employees at all public employers and private employers with 12 or more employees in the state. Depending on which laws were violated, you may have a federal claim, a state claim, or both.

The key is to document everything and get legal advice as soon as possible. We need to start our investigation and build your case before evidence disappears and legal deadlines expire. If you believe you are a victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment at work, Klie Law Offices can help. Give us a call or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

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