Recognizing the types of sexual harassment: ‘quid pro quo’

Posted in Quid Pro Quo,Sexual Harassment on April 26, 2013

Readers of this blog know that sexual harassment is still a big problem in workplaces in California and around the country. You may have even been a victim of sexual harassment or know a colleague who has.

But what is less clear is just what constitutes sexual harassment. You may have felt uncomfortable or humiliated by the actions of your boss or a coworker, but perhaps you didn’t report it because you weren’t sure if it constituted sexual harassment. In the next two posts, we’ll discuss several behaviors that could be considered sexual harassment; starting with a form of sexual harassment known as “quid pro quo.”

The Latin term quid pro quo translates as “this for that.” Employers or supervisors who engage in quid pro quo harassment proposition their subordinates or otherwise subject them to sexual harassment and change or threaten to change their working conditions or job status based on the reaction from the victim.

For instance, a male supervisor may begin to start leering at his female secretary and will occasionally make inappropriate comments. Then, he asks her out on a date or asks her to have sex with him. He says that if she refuses, she could be fired or demoted.

It is also considered quid pro quo harassment if the boss offers incentives for sleeping with him, such as a promotion or raise. In general, quid pro quo harassment occurs when unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances are linked to the victim’s job status, job security or pay and benefits.

One important note: women are not the only victims of quid pro quo and other types of sexual harassment; nor does the perpetrator have to be the opposite gender from the victim. Sexual harassment is an issue that can affect anyone, regardless of gender.

Please check back next week as we continue our discussion about types of sexual harassment. We’ll talk about the kinds of harassment behaviors that contribute to a “hostile work environment.”

Source: Huffington Post, “Sexual Harassment: Know Your Rights,” Jincey Lumpkin, Apr. 17, 2013