What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?


You have a legal right to work at your job without being sexually harassed. Harassment on the job is illegal under both federal and state law. If you were a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you may be entitled to compensation that could include payment for salary and benefits that you lost and for your emotional distress. If you lost your job because of the harassment, compensation could include getting your job back.

Sexual harassment is considered a type of sex discrimination. However, both women and men can file claims for sexual harassment and receive compensation, and the harasser can be of a different sex or the same sex as the victim.

There are two types of sexual harassment, hostile work environment and quid pro quo.

What Is the Meaning of Quid Pro Quo?

“Quid pro quo” is a phrase in Latin. Translated into English, the meaning is “something for something.” It’s used to describe a situation where one person does something for another person and expects the other person to do something for them in return.

In terms of sexual harassment, it means that someone offers something work-related in exchange for a sexual favor.

For example, say your boss promises to give you a raise or a promotion if you have sex with him or her, that would be quid pro quo sexual harassment, and it would be illegal.

Quid pro quo harassment could also involve a threat. For example, if your boss says to you that he or she will fire you if you don’t give in to his/her sexual demands, that would be quid pro quo sexual harassment.

In addition to being illegal when it happens on the job, quid pro quo harassment is also illegal during the job application process. For example, if you go on a job interview, and the person interviewing you says they will give you the job if you do something sexual for them, then that would be illegal quid pro quo sexual harassment, and you could file a claim for compensation even if you never get hired.

What Do You Have to Prove to Win a Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Claim?

To win a quid pro quo claim and receive damages from a company or organization, you will need to prove five things:

  1. You were employed by the company, or you were applying for a job with the company.
  2. The person who harassed you was employed by the company or was an agent of the company in a supervisory position.
  3. This person made sexual advances to you or engaged in verbal or physical conduct that was sexual, and these advances or conduct were unwanted.
  4. The person let you know directly or indirectly that you would receive certain job benefits if you accepted the advances or conduct, and you would not receive these benefits, or you would be penalized, if you rejected the advances or conduct. If you were a job applicant at the time, whether you got hired or advanced further in the application process would depend on whether or not you accepted the harasser’s advances or conduct.
  5. You were harmed by this person’s advances or conduct.

When you bring a sexual harassment claim, it’s important that you build a strong case using evidence that supports your claim. An employment lawyer who is experienced in sexual harassment cases has the skills and knowledge needed to investigate and prove quid pro quo claims.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

A quid pro quo claim can arise if your boss says, “Have sex with me, and I will promote you,” or “I will fire you if you don’t have sex with me.” However, there are other types of sexual harassment that may seem more subtle but are still illegal when the conduct is unwanted.

For example, sexual jokes, hand gestures, facial expressions, language, emails, texts, and materials posted in the workplace might all be sexual harassment if they are unwanted. If you were promised a workplace benefit or threatened with a workplace punishment depending on whether you went along with this unwanted conduct, then that may be quid pro quo harassment.

The promises and threats don’t have to be stated outright. If the harasser lets you know in some way by their words or by their conduct that they will reward or punish you in the workplace if you accept or reject their sexual conduct, then you may have a claim for quid pro quo harassment.

You may have a quid pro quo claim whether you reject or accept the unwanted sexual advances or conduct.

How Do You File a Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Claim?

Usually, you have to file a sexual harassment complaint with a state or federal agency before you can sue in court. You can consult a sexual harassment employment lawyer to find out exactly what you need to do.

We Can Help If You Were Harassed at Your Job

If you think you may have been a victim of sexual harassment, please contact us at the Raynes & Lawn law firm. Our firm is comprised of experienced, dedicated, and award-winning attorneys who want to see you get the justice you deserve. We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to do their job and be judged on their abilities without having to deal with unwanted sexual behavior. When you have been treated unfairly and denied that opportunity, we will fight to make things right. Please get in touch with us by filling out the contact form on our website or call us at (800) 535-1797. A member of our team will be glad to talk to you. Our consultations are free and confidential.

For the general public:  This Blog/Website is made available by the law firm publisher, Raynes & Lawn, for educational purposes. It provides general information and a general understanding of the law but does not provide specific legal advice. By using this site, commenting on posts, or sending inquiries through the site or contact email, you confirm that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the Blog/Website publisher. The Blog/Website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.

For attorneys:  This Blog/Website is informational in nature and is not a substitute for legal research or a consultation on specific matters pertaining to your clients.  Due to the dynamic nature of legal doctrines, what might be accurate one day may be inaccurate the next. As such, the contents of this blog must not be relied upon as a basis for arguments to a court or for your advice to clients without, again, further research or a consultation with our professionals.