The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and several other federal, state, and local laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Sexual harassment falls under this category of workplace discrimination. There are two main types of sexual harassment addressed by federal law: hostile work environment harassment and “quid pro quo” sexual harassment. Understanding exactly how and when quid pro quo occurs can be difficult—especially when sexual advances are subtle or passed off as a “joke.”
What Does “Quid Pro Quo” Mean?
The phrase quid pro quo means “something for something” in Latin. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employer, manager, supervisor, or another person in an authoritative position uses or attempts to use his or her authority to gain a sexual benefit. The most common example of quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a boss or authority figure offering to give an employee a promotion in exchange for sexual contact. The person of authority may also state that the employee will face a negative work consequence such as a poor performance evaluation or reduced work hours if he or she denies a sexual request. While this overt type of harassment does occur, quid pro quo harassment is often much more subtle. The perpetrator may imply or “joke” that it would be in the employee’s best interest to accept his or her advances. This is still sexual harassment.
Victims of quid pro quo harassment may be male or female. The perpetrators of this type of harassment may also be male or female. Harassment may occur between individuals of the opposite sex or the same sex....