Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Ochoa & Calderon

Quid Pro Quo Harassment in the Workplace: What is It?

sexual harassment01

California and federal laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. There are different forms of sexual harassment, and it is not always easy to detect. Many people have heard the phrase “quid pro quo” harassment but are not clear on what that actually means in the labor law context. Continue reading to learn about quid pro quo harassment in the workplace. If you have been the victim of harassment or discrimination of any kind at your California workplace, call a dedicated Riverside workplace harassment lawyer for advice on what to do next.

What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Quid pro quo harassment refers to situations in which a supervisor implies or explicitly conditions an employment benefit, or avoidance of a negative consequence, on the performance of a sexual service. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is the “classic” form of sexual harassment in the workplace: A supervisor tells a subordinate to have sex with him in exchange for a promotion, or under threat of being fired.

Elements of a Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Claim

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) governs sexual harassment claims in the workplace. FEHA applies to employers with at least five employees. Pursuant to FEHA, in order to bring a claim for quid pro quo sexual harassment, the employee must demonstrate:

  • The employee experienced unwanted sexual advances, comments, or demands;
  • The conduct was perpetrated by the employee’s supervisor, either the employee’s immediate supervisor or someone else higher up on the corporate chain; and
  • The employee would experience a tangible negative employment action (including the withholding of a potential benefit) should they reject the supervisor’s advances.

It’s important to keep in mind that the gender of either party is not relevant to whether harassment has taken place. Female supervisors can harass male employees, male supervisors can harass male employees, etc. If the conduct satisfies the other elements of harassment, the employee has a claim.

Examples of Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment can occur whenever a supervisor makes an unwanted advance or comment and the employee is offered a benefit for complying or threatened with a negative consequence for refusing. Examples of conduct that may give rise to a harassment claim include:

  • Asking an employee for a date
  • Asking an employee for a sexual favor
  • Unwanted physical contact with an employee
  • Making sexual or harassing comments or jokes to an employee

The conduct must come with a promise of something positive or a threat of something negative to constitute quid pro quo harassment. The promise or threat may be explicit or implicit. The employment benefit might include:

  • A job
  • A promotion
  • A bonus
  • A raise
  • A benefit
  • Time off
  • More favorable shift assignments
  • Transfer to a more desirable location or position

On the flip side, the threat of a negative employment outcome could constitute any of the following:

  • Termination
  • Demotion
  • Withholding benefits
  • Transfer to a less desirable location, shift, or position
  • Exclusion from corporate events
  • Denial of the tools or employees necessary to perform job duties

If you were promised a benefit in exchange for any kind of romantic advance, or if you were threatened implicitly or explicitly with consequences for rejecting a supervisor’s advances, you might have a claim for quid pro quo harassment.

Call a Zealous Labor Law Attorney for Help With a Workplace Harassment Claim

For help protecting yourself and recovering compensation after experiencing sexual harassment or a hostile work environment in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a skilled and compassionate California labor and employment attorney. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn