Sexual harassment is a sensitive topic, especially as traditional workforce roles continue to evolve. Women are working on the same level as men, but harassment occurs from many different angles. As an employer, you’re held to the highest standard of conduct, so it’s imperative that you understand where the boundaries lie. Above all, you must realize that harassment is subjective. If your employee feels victimized, you’re automatically in hot water. Here’s a rundown of the quid pro concept, one of two forms of sexual harassment that occur in the workplace.
What Is Quid Pro Quo?
Quid pro quo is a common legal term that refers to a contingent exchange. In other words, you give something to someone and you get something in return. Consider how this concept might apply to a sexual harassment scenario in a work environment. A manager, for instance, may offer an employee a promation in exchange for a sexual favor. Likewise, any job candidate who receives an offer based on sexual conditions is most certainly being harassed. Hollywood films provide some great examples of subtler situations. Even when the request is implied rather than stated, it’s still harassment.
The same concept might also display in a threatening way. For example, the manager may promise not to terminate or reprimand the employee if he or she agrees to engage in a sexual act or a sexual relationship. Management is a primary element in a quid pro quo situation.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
It’s important to understand what constitutes harassment, as the definition is the same for both a quid pro quo claim and a hostile work environment claim. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment refers to any unwelcome sexual advance, sexual request or physical or verbal sexual conduct. A request is considered harassment if it’s acceptance or rejection affects or interferes with a victim’s employment status in any way. A response does not have to be explicit. Interference can be anything that creates an intimidating, offensive or hostile environment.
Understanding a Quid Pro Quo Case
A harassment claim can be embarrassing, destructive, costly and time consuming. If your employee decides to file a complaint, he or she must do so within 180 days of the incident. Furthermore, all claims require the following pieces of evidence:
- Proof of employment or proof of the attempt to seek employment with your company
- Proof that the harasser made an unwelcomed sexual advance or comment
- Proof that the harasser implicitly or explicitly presented conditions that affected the victim’s employment status
- Proof that the harasser was a manager, supervisor or outside agent of your company
- Proof that the employee was physically or emotionally harmed and that the harasser’s behavior was the primary cause
Overall, a judge will want proof that the act was somehow tied to the employee’s job. This could mean a potential promotion, termination or anything in between. Moreover, an employee has the right to file a claim regardless of how he or she chooses to respond to the advance.
Mitigating Your Risk
The best way to handle a quid pro quo case is to get a lawyer immediately involved. You may be faced with a compensatory settlement that requires you to pay back lost wages, opportunities or insurance benefits. A victim may also file for punitive damages based on emotional pain and suffering. However, it’s rare for a judge to grant this kind of compensation.
A quid pro quo situation can be handled internally if an employee is able to seek restitution through the human resources department. However, once the EEOC is notified, it becomes a full-blown case. If you receive notice of a formal claim, it’s best to remain cooperative with the agent. This means a prompt request and full disclosure of any requested documents.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.