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

QUID PRO QUO Written on Blue Key of Metallic Keyboard. Finger pressing key.

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take on many forms. These days, we often hear about “hostile environment” sexual harassment, where unwelcome sexual conduct is so severe or pervasive that it makes the workplace an inhospitable place for the victim. Quid pro quo harassment is somewhat different. It does not require the victim to prove a hostile environment exists, although this type of harassment might create one. Nevertheless, it is critical to understand this important legal concept so that workers can recognize their rights and the steps they can take if they face such harassment.

Read on to learn more about quid pro quo harassment in the workplace. If you have been unlawfully harassed or discriminated against at work in Southern California, contact Ochoa & Calderón to speak with a knowledgeable and compassionate Riverside employment law attorney.

What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Quid Pro Quo is a Latin term meaning “something for something.” In the context of employment law, it refers to a situation where job benefits are conditioned on the acceptance of unwelcome sexual advances or conduct. This type of harassment typically involves a person in a position of power, such as a supervisor or manager, who demands sexual favors in exchange for job-related benefits. These benefits can include promotions, salary increases, preferred job assignments, or even continued employment. Similarly, the refusal to submit to such demands could be met with adverse job actions or unfavorable treatment as a quid pro quo.

Key characteristics of quid pro quo harassment in the workplace therefore include:

  • Power Imbalance: The harasser is usually someone with authority over the employee’s job or career prospects.

  • Unwelcome Sexual Advances: This includes any sexual proposition or request for sexual favors, from requests for a date to intimate contact.

  • Conditional Benefits: The employee is led to believe that their refusal or acceptance of the sexual advances will directly affect their employment status or conditions.

Legal Protections Against Quid Pro Quo Harassment in Southern California

Employees in Southern California are protected under both federal and state laws. The federal law that primarily addresses sexual harassment, including Quid Pro Quo harassment, is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Additionally, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides broader protections against sexual harassment in the workplace. Under these laws, Quid Pro Quo harassment is illegal and can be grounds for legal action.

Employers can be held liable for Quid Pro Quo harassment perpetrated by their employees, especially when the harasser is in a supervisory position. Companies are encouraged to implement strict policies against sexual harassment and provide training to prevent such behavior in the workplace.

Recognizing Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Recognizing Quid Pro Quo harassment can be challenging, as it often occurs in private and might involve subtle coercion. However, some common indicators include:

  • Direct or Indirect Threats: An employer may explicitly or implicitly suggest that refusing sexual advances will result in negative job consequences.

  • Promises of Advancement: An employee might be offered a promotion, raise, or other benefits in return for sexual favors.

Steps to Take if You Face Quid Pro Quo Harassment

  1. Document the Harassment: Keep a detailed record of the incidents, including dates, times, locations, and any witnesses.

  2. Report the Behavior: Follow your company’s procedure for reporting harassment. If you’re uncomfortable reporting internally, you can seek legal advice.

  3. Consult with an Employment Law Attorney: Speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through your legal options and rights.

Help With Sexual Harassment Claims in Riverside and Southern California

Quid Pro Quo harassment is a serious violation of an employee’s rights. At Ochoa & Calderón, we are dedicated to supporting workers in Riverside and throughout Southern California in understanding and enforcing their rights against such unlawful practices. If you believe you are a victim of Quid Pro Quo harassment, it’s important to take action and seek legal guidance. Our experienced team is here to help you navigate these complex issues and strive for a harassment-free workplace. For more information or to discuss your specific situation, call Ochoa & Calderón at 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 throughout Southern California for a free consultation. We’re committed to advocating for workers’ rights in the face of sexual harassment and other workplace injustices.

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