Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment: Illegal Under Federal And California Laws
No one wants to be the victim of sexual harassment or any other form of discrimination at his or her job. Fortunately, federal civil rights laws and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) make it illegal for employers to engage in sexual harassment. However, although this has been the law for decades, employers continue to engage in this illegal practice. This leaves the victims feeling powerless and vulnerable, and often forces them to be subject to unwanted sexual advances to obtain or keep their jobs.
What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?
Victims of sexual harassment can bring one of two types of claims: quid pro quo or hostile work environment. Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning “this for that” and is basically the idea of doing something to get something in return. This type of discrimination occurs when a supervisor either impliedly or explicitly requires an applicant or employee to submit to sexual advances by threatening an adverse employment action, like a poor review, a demotion, or termination.
Quid pro quo discrimination involves unwanted sexual advances and can take many forms, from a subtle hint to an overt action. The consequences of not complying with the request can impact many facets of an employee’s employment, such as hiring, salary, promotion, job schedule, duties, benefits, job evaluation, or termination. Some key points about quid pro quo claims include:
- A single incident of unwanted sexual advances can constitute quid pro quo discrimination—unlike hostile work environment claims.
- Quid pro quo discrimination can only be committed by a supervisor, manager, owner, or person who has power over the employment decisions of the victim. If a co-worker engages in this type of discrimination, the victim may have a hostile work environment claim.
- The victim does not have to submit to the unwanted sexual advances to have a claim for sexual harassment.
Examples of Quid Pro Quo Discrimination
Employers engage in quid pro quo discrimination in many ways. Some of these include:
- A manager offers an employee a promotion in exchange for sex.
- A boss threatens to fire a worker if she refuses his sexual advances.
- An employee who refuses her supervisor’s sexual requests is demoted.
- An owner threatens to withhold benefits if an employee refuses his sexual requests.
- Involvement in desirable work projects is contingent on engaging in certain sexual acts.
- An employee receives a poor job evaluation after rejecting a supervisor’s sexual advances.
- A manager suggests to an employee that it would be beneficial to be friendly or romantic with him.
- A supervisor makes a promotion or raise contingent on the worker going out to dinner with him.
Elements of a Quid Pro Quo Claim
While it is illegal under both federal laws and the FEHA to engage in this type of discrimination, the FEHA gives victims more protections. It applies no matter how many employees are employed and has no cap on pain and suffering and punitive damages. Under the FEHA, a victim would need to prove the following to win a quid pro quo claim of sexual harassment:
- The victim was a job applicant, an employee of the employer, or provided services under a contract with the employer.
- At the time the sexual harassment incident occurred, the person engaging in the illegal act was a manager, supervisor, owner, or agent of the employer.
- The person harassing the victim engaged in unwanted physical or verbal conduct that was sexual in nature or made sexual advances.
- Acceptance of the sexual advances or conduct was a condition of receiving job benefits or employment decisions were based on the employee’s acceptance of sexual advances or conduct.
- The victim was harmed, and the person harassing her was the primary cause of the harm.
Do you believe you are the victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment? These cases are very difficult to prove, and you need an experienced sexual harassment attorney on your side. I have helped many victims of this and other types of discrimination get the justice they deserve. Start an online chat or call me today at 949-679-9909 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to learn about your legal rights and options.