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What does quid pro quo look like in the workplace?

A hostile work environment hurts employers and employees alike. To an organization, a hostile workplace can lead to employee unrest, high turnover and costly lawsuits. It also hurts the organization’s reputation. And to an employee, a hostile workplace can impact productivity and create an environment of insecurity and low morale.

Unfortunately, sexual harassment remains a serious problem in most workplaces. This reality often manifests in ways that inspire a hostile work environment. One of the most common forms of sexual harassment at work is quid pro quo.

Understanding quid pro quo

Quid pro quo is Latin for “something in exchange for another.”  In the context of a work environment, quid pro quo happens when certain elements of the employment relationship are pegged on sexual favors. For instance, your supervisor may recommend you for training or a job promotion in exchange for a romantic relationship. In this case, your training or promotion is strictly tied to your willingness to yield to the perpetrator’s demand for a sexual relationship.

To successfully claim quid pro quo sexual harassment, you will need to prove the following elements:

  • There must have been an employment relationship (or the possibility of one) between you and the perpetrator. An example would be a job offer in exchange for a sexual affair
  • The perpetrator must have been in a position of power in the said organization
  • The perpetrator must have made an unwelcome sexual advance toward you
  • The perpetrator must have implicitly or explicitly set conditions that impacted the employment relationship
  • You must have suffered emotional, physical or financial losses as a result of the perpetrator’s actions

Basically, you need to prove to the court that the perpetrator’s actions were, in a meaningful way, tied to the job or position you were seeking.

Protecting your rights

Sexual harassment can have a long-term effect on a victim. Learning more about California employment laws can help you safeguard your rights and interests while fighting sexual harassment at work.