Requests for Sexual Favors

sexual harassment lawyer in california

Requests for Sexual Favors in the Workplace

Sexual harassment is a severe or pervasive problem in the workplace that has physical, emotional, and financial consequences for victims. In fact, a recent study reported that 38 percent of women and 13 percent of women were sexually harassed at their workplace. If your supervisor or manager made unwelcome sexual advances toward you, you may not only feel uncomfortable, but also anxious, depressed, and unwilling to go to work.

Sexual harassment is illegal in California, and you do not have to accept requests for sexual favors as a condition of your employment. It takes a great deal of courage to come forward and report this inappropriate behavior, but it may prove necessary to protect your rights and the rights of others.

Contact an experienced California sexual harassment attorney to advise you about taking this stressful but important step. An attorney can guide you through this difficult time in your life by helping you deal with your employer’s internal protocol in a way that protects your rights, and taking care of all the necessary paperwork and details that come with filing a complaint or lawsuit.

What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

California workplace discrimination laws divide harassment into two separate categories: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. Requests for sexual favors in the workplace are a form of quid pro quo, which means “something for something” in Latin. This form of sexual harassment occurs when a person’s job or benefits from a job are directly tied to their acceptance or denial of unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors—which also include non-penetrative acts of a sexual nature.

Examples of quid pro quo harassment that include requests for sexual favors include:

  • A hiring manager promises a job to an applicant who agrees to sexual favors or fires an employee for not complying with sexual advances.
  • A supervisor or manager promises an employee who agrees to sexual favors a raise, or doles out a pay cut for refusal to comply with requests for sexual favors.
  • A supervisor or manager grants a time off request to an employee who agrees to sexual favors or refuses a time off request when an employee does not comply with sexual requests.

Proving a Quid Pro Quo Harassment Claim

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) bars employers with five or more employees from discriminating on the basis of protected categories, including through quid pro quo harassment. To succeed in a quid pro quo harassment claim, plaintiffs generally need to prove:

  • EmploymentYou must prove that you applied for a job with or were employed by the company that you are filing a suit against.
  • Harasser’s employment status – You must prove that your alleged harasser was employed with the company when the harassment took place and that you were that person’s subordinate.
  • Proof of harassmentYou must provide proof that the incident(s) took place and were sexual in nature. This includes personal documentation, witnesses, and other victims, if applicable. Your attorney may help you contact other witnesses and victims.
  • Threatened costs/promised benefits The harasser promised to give you something or take something away based on your compliance with sexual favors. This could include a job in its entirety, but also includes pay, time off, performance reviews, and other forms of preferential treatment.
  • Proof of harm – This is where hostile work environment harassment coincides with quid pro quo. It is likely that if someone harassed you, it caused harm—that is to say, the harassment damaged your working conditions or created a hostile work environment.

What If I Voluntarily Had Sexual Relations with a Manager?

If you chose to date or enter a relationship with your boss, the court may or may not characterize those interactions as sexual harassment. The answer to this question hinges on whether you welcomed the advances. If you did not welcome the advances, it doesn’t matter if you eventually gave into them.

This is where the defense may take part in victim-blaming. Remember that you did not ask for the harassment. Let your attorney deal with unwarranted attacks.

What Should I Do if My Employer Requests Sexual Favors?

If your employer demands sexual favors, proceed with caution while protecting your rights. An experienced sexual harassment attorney can guide you along the best course of action. You may want to discuss taking the following steps with your attorney.

  1. Documenting interactions in which your harasser requests sexual favors from you.
  2. Talking to trusted coworkers who may have witnessed the harassment or experienced harassment of their own.
  3. Using your company’s internal reporting system to file a complaint against your harasser.
  4. Continuing to notify your employer if the behavior doesn’t stop, and continuing to keep records of the details.

How Do I File a Claim if My Boss Requests Sexual Favors?

Even after you’ve followed your employer’s protocol for filing an internal complaint about quid pro quo harassment, the behavior may not subside. At this point, you may want to discuss further steps with your attorney. These often include filing a claim with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), and potentially filing a lawsuit. If you were the victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment, protect your rights and speak with a lawyer immediately.

Dealing with sexual harassment is isolating and leaves many victims feeling helpless, depressed, and upset. A skilled sexual harassment attorney can seek justice for you by helping you file a DFEH complaint and guiding you through the process of filing a lawsuit against your harasser and/or employer.