Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
last updated 15 April 2007
Quid pro quo harassment is the most commonly recognized form of sexual harassment. It occurs when (1) job benefits, including employment, promotion, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance expectations and other conditions of employment, are made contingent on the provision of sexual favors, usually to an employer, supervisor or agent of the employer who has the authority to make decisions about employment actions, or (2) the rejection of a sexual advance or request for sexual favors results in a tangible employment detriment, a loss of a job benefit of the kind described above.
This form of harassment is often prohibited as a matter of criminal law (the crime in some cases is labeled "abuse of power"), as a form of sex discrimination or as a violation of labor or tort law.
Once a sexual harassment claimant establishes a case of sexual harassment that meets applicable legal standards, employers generally have the burden of proving that the harassment did not occur or that it occurred for non-discriminatory reasons. For more information on burden of proof, see Sexual Harassment—Law and Policy: Domestic Laws and Sexual Harassment—Law and Policy: Regional Laws.
Employers are generally held strictly liable for quid pro quo sexual harassment because supervisors, managers and agents who perpetrate quid pro quo harassment are deemed to be acting directly on behalf of their employer. For more information on employer liability, see Sexual Harassment--Law and Policy: Domestic Laws.
Remedies for victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment may include recovery of compensatory damages such as medical expenses, future economic loss, loss of enjoyment of life, and back pay. Punitive damages may also be awarded to successful claimants. In the United States, such damages are awarded only if the claimant establishes that the employer acted with malice or reckless indifference to her or his rights. In many parts of the world, a prison term or criminal fine may also result from the successful prosecution of quid pro quo harassment. For more information on remedies for victims of sexual harassment, see Sexual Harassment—Law and Policy-Domestic Laws.