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What is quid pro quo sexual harassment?

On Behalf of | Sep 17, 2023 | Sexual Harassment At Work

boss yelling at female employee

Sexual harassment can happen in many different ways in the workplace. Sometimes, it just involves comments or even “jokes” that people make. Other times, it’s a single one-time event, such as a coworker making very inappropriate comments about someone’s appearance.

But there’s another kind of sexual harassment known as quid pro quo. What is this and how does it differ from the examples noted above?

An exchange: This for that

The best way to think of a quid pro quo situation is where something is being offered in exchange for something else. In terms of sexual harassment, a power dynamic may also be in play. Both of these work together to create a problematic situation. 

For example, say that an office manager has the ability to fire or hire employees. They can also give out promotions. That manager tells one of the lower-level employees that they will be given the next promotion in exchange for sexual favors. They are trying to use their position of power to bargain for what they want, which is a sexual relationship with their coworker.

Additionally, the employee who is being asked for those favors may fear retaliation if they refuse. It’s not just that they won’t get the promotion, but they may be worried that they will be fired if they don’t go along with it. This is why power dynamics are so problematic.

What options do you have?

Employees certainly don’t deserve to be treated like this, but it happens with concerning frequency. Those who have found themselves in this position need to know what legal options they have at their disposal.