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What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

By Thomas McKinney

Sexual harassment in the workplace can take many forms. It does not necessarily all look the same. Furthermore, some forms of sexual harassment may be more easily hidden or disguised than others. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can be one of the more easily hidden forms of sexual harassment, but it is no less illegal than other forms of sexual harassment. Furthermore, as with all sexual harassment, the perpetrator aims to increase or establish power over the victim through the harassing behavior.

What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that translates to “something for something” or “this for that.” You may, therefore, already have gleaned that quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a manager or workplace authority figure suggesting that an employee will be given something in return for satisfying some sort of demand that is sexual in nature. The exchange of the sexual favor may be presented to the employee as a way to be given something of benefit or in order to avoid something negative from happening, such as being fired or otherwise experiencing an adverse employment action. Employees, as well as potential employees, can be the victims of quid pro quo harassment. For instance, if the hiring or rejection of a job applicant hinges on accepting a bargain for sexual favors or advances of any kind, this will likely be deemed quid pro quo sexual harassment.

There are, however, a variety of elements that must be satisfied in order to bring a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim. The plaintiff must be able to prove that he or she was an employee or applied for employment with the company, who will be the defendant. The plaintiff must also be prepared to prove that the alleged harasser was employed with the defendant company, made unwanted sexual advances, and that job benefits or refraining from being subjected to adverse employment actions were conditioned on accepting or rejecting those advances.

Additionally, the plaintiff must be able to show harm incurred and that the harm incurred was suffered, in large part, as a result of the alleged harasser’s conduct. The court will be looking for evidence that the conduct that was sexual in nature resulted in an adverse employment action or the loss of an employment benefit, such as being denied a promotion. It should also be noted that an employee who accepted the quid pro quo deal can still bring a claim of sexual harassment later on.

If a successful quid pro quo harassment claim has been brought, the claimant may be entitled to compensatory damages for the harm suffered as a result of the harassment. This can include lost wages, loss of employment benefits, and more. In some cases, if the harassment resulted in the claimant’s loss of employment, then the claimant can be given his or her job back. While compensatory damages in quid pro quo harassment cases is common, being awarded punitive damages is not, although it is possible. Punitive damage awards are reserved for particularly egregious cases and rarely does a case involve behavior that rises to such a level.

New Jersey Employment Law Attorneys

If you have been the victim of quid pro quo harassment, talk to the team at Castronovo & McKinney. We are here to help. Contact us today.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.