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Do You Know Quid Pro Quo Harassment When You See It?


Your business would never sexually harass anyone. You know the rules, and you avoid breaking them. But there’s one form of sexual harassment that is harder to spot, and which often happens seemingly, at least at first, innocuously: Quid pro quo sexual harassment. And it could happen in your business, without you knowing it.

What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Quid pro quo sexual harassment often starts innocuously enough—usually with an employee asking another employee for a date, or to have lunch—certainly, it can start with something much more insidious, like a full request for a sexual favor—but its often the less intrusive or less offensive actions, like asking someone on a date, that go unnoticed.

But that request for a date or a lunch or a drink, comes with either an express or implied condition: If the request is denied, there will be negative ramifications at work—or otherwise if the request is accepted, there will be positive benefits to the other person in the workplace.

Often, quid pro quo can be an endless loop, which the victimized employee feels trapped in. For example, the person may ask for a date, and in return the victim employee gets a promotion. Then, the request escalates to have the employee/victim sleep with the person. Feeling like she will lose her promotion, or else, that she wont get further benefits, she does.

The requesting employee keeps on asking, perhaps upping the intimacy or intrusiveness of the requests, and the victimized employee feels like he or she has no choice but to accept.

Proof of Harassment

The victimized employee needs to show that the request for whatever it was—a date, a relationship, intimacy, etc—was unwanted. So long as it was unwanted, it was illegal—consent is not a defense, given that the consent in these kinds of cases is borne of coercion, fear and pressure.

The person asking for the date or sexual advance must be in some position of authority or power over the victimized employee. That person doesn’t have to be the CEO, or the President, but just someone who could make the victimized employee’s life better or worse in the workplace, if the requests aren’t met.

The victimized employee must show that the “carrot” that was dangled in return for the request, was actually carried out—that is, that there were negative repercussions for denying the advance, or positive ones for accepting the advances.

Policies in the Workplace

This is why so many companies now have “no date” policies at work—or at least, no date policies between employees and anybody who is a supervisor or who has authority over the other employee.

At the very least, if dating between employees with unequal power will be allowed, many companies document when employees are dating, in order to monitor the situation and ensure that there are no changes to either employee’s work status, as a result or consequence of their personal relationship.

Call our West Palm Beach business attorneys today with any questions you may have about your business or your employees at Pike & Lustig.




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