A supervisor nonconsensually touches an employee in exchange for job benefits, which is an example of quid pro quo sexual harassment.

What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

By Levin Simes
June 7, 2024

Unfortunately, sexual harassment can occur anywhere, even in the workplace. With people spending more time at work than at their own homes, the workplace should be a safe environment where employees feel respected and secure. 

There are two primary types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile environment harassment. Quid pro quo involves someone in power who uses their position to manipulate or control someone else.    

The frustrating reality is that this form of harassment often goes unnoticed because it deals with private exchanges. Regardless of the nature of the harassment, quid pro quo is an inexcusable violation of an employee’s dignity and rights. 

At Levin Simes, our firm’s mission is to hold perpetrators of sexual harassment accountable at all costs. As a women-led law firm, we are dedicated to exposing and dismantling the systems and tactics that enable sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond. Contact us online or call (415) 426-3000 if you were sexually harassed. 

What Does Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Mean?

Quid pro quo may sound like a confusing term, but it’s important to understand its meaning to protect yourself and others in the workplace. 

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when someone in a position of power, say a boss, manager, or supervisor, demands sexual favors in exchange for something at work, like a raise, promotion, or simply just keeping your job.

This blatant abuse of power creates a deeply unfair and uncomfortable situation, where the person being harassed feels that they must comply or else they could lose their job or opportunities for advancement. 

What Does Quid Pro Quo Harassment Look Like?

An example of quid pro quo harassment is: 

  • A supervisor promises a promotion or pay raise to a subordinate if they go on a date with them. 
  • A hiring manager states they will give the applicant the job on the condition that they perform a sexual favor. 
  • An employer threatens to demote or fire an employee if they refuse to engage in sexual activity. 

None of these scenarios have anything to do with mutual attraction or genuine interest. Instead, cases of quid pro quo sexual harassment involve someone using their authority to exploit or take advantage of someone to make them do things they don’t want to do. 

A report by Cornell University found that over 1.7 million New York residents have experienced quid pro quo workplace sexual harassment, with 10.9% reporting incidents, including 12.2% of women and 9.5% of men.

How Do I Know if I Qualify for a Quid Pro Quo Harassment Claim?

Just a single occurrence of quid pro quo harassment could be all it takes to make you eligible for a claim. To bring a successful claim, you must be able to show the following: 

  • Employment relationship: You must have an employment relationship with the individual or organization accused of harassment, whether as a full-time or part-time employee, contractor, or job applicant.
  • Experienced quid pro quo harassment: Your case must demonstrate that someone with supervisory authority demanded sexual favors in exchange for job benefits. 
  • Lack of consent: You considered these advances unwelcome. 

What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Evidence?

Certain forms of documentation can bolster your quid pro quo claim, such as: 

  • A record in your own words documenting what happened. 
  • Witness statements detailing the harassment.
  • Emails, texts, or other written communications referencing the harassment. 

We recognize the desire to delete or erase communications may be strong in an effort to move past or forget the incident, but we encourage you to keep as many records as possible. These accounts are crucial evidence and powerful tools that bring your perpetrator to justice.  

Your voice holds power against employers and companies that engage in sexual harassment. 

Levin Simes admires the strength of survivors who bravely file claims, and we are honored to stand beside them in their pursuit of justice and recovery. Contact us online or call (415) 426-3000 to share your story with us. 

I Am Worried About Getting Fired if I File a Claim

It’s natural to feel anxious about job security and how speaking out may impact your professional future. However, we want you to know that laws against retaliation exist to protect you.

Federal and state laws prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who file harassment claims or participate in related investigations. Therefore, if you step forward, your employer cannot legally demote you, reduce your pay, give you unfavorable work assignments, or fire you for filing a claim. 

Damages Available in Quid Pro Quo Workplace Harassment Claims

If you experienced quid pro quo harassment, you may be awarded damages, including: 

  • Reinstatement to your original position or a substantially equivalent position if you were improperly fired or a promotion if you were passed over.
  • Back pay in the form of lost wages, bonuses, paid time off, and healthcare benefits if you were terminated or denied a promotion. 
  • Front pay in cases where reinstatement is not possible or isn’t in the employee’s best interest. 
  • Compensatory damages, including economic and non-economic, to address medical bills or emotional distress you suffered. 

Contact Levin Simes for Help in Your Quid Pro Quo Case

Everyone has the right to work in a safe environment free of sexual intimidation, harassment, or assault. Filing a quid pro quo claim will help you restore normalcy to your life while sending a powerful message that this behavior will not be tolerated. By speaking up, you may inspire others to do the same and contribute to a shift toward safer and more respectful workplaces in America. 

Together, our actions have the potential to create meaningful change. Levin Simes fights for survivors nationwide and serves as lead counsel in rideshare sexual assault litigation. Our lawyers have collected over $500 million in settlements for clients over the last ten years. Reach out to us online or call (415) 426-3000

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