Quid pro quo is Latin for “this for that.” There is nothing inherently wrong with a quid pro quo agreement, so as long as it is between equals offering favors that are appropriate and non-threatening. For example, you can offer to trade assignments or trade schedules with co-workers if your employer allows it. It’s also not quid pro quo harassment if two people of equal position offer or trade one favor for a sexual favor. That situation is sexual harassment, not quid pro quo harassment.
If you’re unsure what quid pro quo harassment is, the employment law attorneys at Barrett & Farahany can explain.
What is the Definition of Quid Quo Pro Harassment?
Quid pro quo harassment only occurs in specific situations where one of the individuals in the quid pro quo situation is the supervisor of the other. There has to be a power imbalance that severely affects one’s ability to say no.
If one person offers a sexual favor for a work favor from a co-worker, but they are in equal positions in the company, this would be sexual harassment. The lack of a power imbalance is what separates these two situations. Quid pro quo harassment is considered worse because the victim has far fewer options available to them to deny their supervisor’s advances without consequences versus with another co-worker.
If the roles are reversed and someone offers their supervisor sexual favors in return for a workplace favor, this isn’t quid quo pro harassment. This is still sexual harassment and not allowed in the workplace, but it is not quid pro quo harassment.
What Do Supervisors Usually Offer In Quid Pro Quo Harassment Cases?
A supervisor harassing an employee, asking them to have sexual contact with them is sexual harassment, but not necessarily quid pro quo. In quid pro quo, there has to be an offer of something in return. In the workplace, a supervisor may offer something at any stage of their employee’s employment. This offer can be:
- Pay raises
- Good performance evaluations
- Not being fired/terminated (keeping their job)
- No demotions
- Advancing through interviews
- Not withholding pay
Like with sexual harassment, the favor the employee has to do doesn’t even have to be sexual intercourse. A sexual favor of any degree, including a kiss, hug, massage, or even a date, can be considered quid quo pro harassment. This means there doesn’t have to be an attempt at physical contact for it to be harassment, just an offer.
Explicit vs. Implied Quid Pro Quo Harassment
In the eyes of the law, explicit and implied quid pro quo harassment are the same. One is harder to prove, but no less illegal. If someone is only implying favors, record the incident and their exact wording to the next supervisor you report to.
Third-Party Quid Pro Quo Harassment
The supervisor does not have to suggest sexual favors for themselves. If they suggest that you should do something sexual – such as flirt – with someone like a client or customer at the threat of punishment, it’s quid pro quo harassment.
Non-Sexual Quid Pro Quo Harassment
Quid pro quo harassment does not have to be sexual in nature, but it is the vast majority of the time. Technically, if a supervisor required an employee to convert to another religion for a promotion or to avoid demotion, this would also be quid pro quo.
What to Do If You Experience Quid Pro Quo Harassment?
Whether you accepted or denied the favor, it is not your fault this happened to you. You have the right to work in a safe work environment, and there are services that can help you through your experience. If your supervisor has tried to make demands of you outside of your work responsibilities, you can report them to the proper authorities in your place of work.
If your employer does not appropriately rectify the situation, and/or retaliates against you, you can seek legal action against them. An employment law attorney can help you get the justice and compensation you deserve.
Contact the Employment Law Attorneys at Barrett & Farahany
At Barrett and Farahany, we are driven to help our clients against all odds, across the country with our many different offices. Many employers believe they can take advantage of their employees, and we’re here to help prove them wrong.
We work smart and we focus on the outcomes. If you need an attorney you can trust, you can trust us. Contact us today for help.