What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?


Jan Reburiano

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase meaning “something for something”. In employment law, quid pro quo is a type of sexual harassment claim where an employee suffers a tangible adverse action when denying a higher-up’s sexual demands. Quid pro quo also refers to instances where you gain benefits in exchange for sexual favors.

An example of quid pro quo harassment would be if you’re denied a promotion unless you agree to your boss’s sexual favors. If your boss threatens to fire you unless you fulfill a sexual act, that’s also considered quid pro quo harassment.

Everyone has the right, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, to a workplace free from sex discrimination. Any form of quid pro quo harassment should not be tolerated You can fight back and cover your losses with an employment attorney.

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Types of Quid Pro Quo Harassment

There are two types of quid pro quo harassment to watch out for: explicit/implicit harassment, and non-sexual quid pro quo. Both are violating the Civil Rights Act, and it takes serious investigation from an attorney to form a claim against the employer.

Any scenario where you’re expected to fulfill sexual favors to avoid adverse actions may be considered quid pro quo. Even if they’re just threats, your employer may create a hostile work environment that is also unacceptable under the law.

Explicit vs. Implicit

Explicit and implicit quid pro quo harassment is treated the same in employment law. One is just more hidden but no less damaging to your work environment. If you can record the incident and report it to your company, you can start the process of filing a harassment claim.

After reporting the incident, you must collect enough evidence to prove your boss threatened you with an adverse action. Examples of explicit quid pro quo harassment include:

  • Threatening disciplinary action unless they fulfill sexual favors
  • Firing an employee because they did not engage in sexual acts
  • Offering to promote an employee in exchange for sexual acts

Implicit quid pro quo harassment may include:

  • Verbal harassment that implies sexual favors will lead to job advances
  • Giving impartial treatment to those who engage in sexual activities for advancement

These actions not only violate your civil rights, but they also create a hostile work environment that hurts everyone in the company. Find a way to prove these activities and seek legal guidance with an employment attorney. Enough employees who report similar experiences may lead to a class action lawsuit, protecting everyone onboard.


Quid pro quo harassment may exist in your workplace that is not sexual in nature. If you’re forced to compromise your civil rights to avoid adverse actions or retain job benefits, that’s still quid pro quo. The main idea of “something for something” must be present for actions to be considered “quid pro quo”.

An example of non-sexual quid pro quo harassment would be if you’re forced to convert to another religion to retain job benefits.

How to Prove Quid Pro Quo Harassment in the Workplace

There are four things you must prove in your case to file a quid pro quo harassment claim:

  • Power imbalance: The defendant has a clear position of power over the plaintiff.
  • Tangible harm: There are clear disadvantages set up when you don’t fulfill these sexual favors.
  • Explicit or implicit quid pro quo: There is evidence of quid pro quo creating a hostile work environment.
  • Unwanted behavior: The plaintiff did not welcome these demands.

Quid pro quo harassment generally needs tangible proof that your employer threatened adverse action if you refuse to submit. Examples of proof you may use include:

  • Statements from you, your employer, and other witnesses about what happened
  • Written documents discussing the incidents, implying harassing conduct
  • Documentation from loved ones you confided in when the harassment took place

There are several real-life cases of sexual harassment the EEOC handled which resulted in thousand-dollar lawsuits. Arranging these lawsuits requires expert legal representation from an employment attorney in your state. Without a lawyer on your side, you won’t maximize your settlement payment and cover your losses.

Federal Laws Against Quid Pro Quo

Several federal laws protect against quid pro quo harassment in the workplace, namely the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This federal law prevents discrimination on the basis of:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Color

Two titles in the Civil Rights Act, namely Title IX and Title VII, extend these rights to the workplace. It is through these federal laws that employers cannot extend benefits or issue adverse actions on the basis of sex.

Title IX

Title IX of the Civil Rights Act prevents sex discrimination from occurring in educational facilities, in both employment and conduct in the classroom. If you see sexual harassment occurring in an educational setting, Title IX lets you to sue the school for money damages in court.

Title VII

Title VII prevents employers from engaging in employment discrimination towards a protected class. The definitions of what a protected class is and what discrimination looks like are outlined in Title VII. This title also protects employees from acts of retaliation if their actions are due to reasonable suspicion of discrimination.

How to File a Harassment Claim

The first thing to do when filing a claim against your supervisor is to report the situation to your employer. This may sound counterintuitive, but most companies have a sexual harassment policy all employees must follow.

The employer must know about the situation to resolve quid pro quo harassment in the workplace. They may interview you and everyone involved to determine whether quid pro quo harassment took place. If they don’t take these necessary steps, you should file a complaint to the EEOC as soon as possible.

It may feel uncomfortable to confront your company about sexual harassment. An attorney on your side can make this process as smooth as possible while seeking compensation for your losses. If your employer refuses to resolve the situation, you have the right to bring the claim to court.

Generally you must file a claim with the EEOC within 180 days of the time the discrimination took place. For federal workers, the window to file is reduced to 45 days, but can be extended depending on your case.

Will My Employer Retaliate Against My Harassment Claim?

Your employer may not retaliate against you if you bring a quid pro quo harassment claim to court. The EEOC considers filing a harassment claim a protected activity because these actions fight against discrimination in the workplace. As long as you have a reasonable belief that discrimination has occurred, your actions are protected.

However, you’re not protected from retaliation if you’re engaging in behavior that is non-retaliatory or non-discriminatory in nature. For more information regarding your specific case, you should consult an attorney or an EEOC official.

Find an Attorney to Protect Your Employee Rights

You have the right to seek legal representation against your employer for violating your employee rights. It may be difficult to find an attorney you trust, so LegalASAP is here to help. We have 500+ law firms located throughout the United States, ready to fight for your rights as you heal from your losses.

Don’t worry about the expenses as our attorneys work under contingency fees, meaning you won’t pay anything upfront until you win and your settlement’s in the mail.

Don’t wait until the last second to file your claim. To contact one of our representatives, call 888-927-3080 or fill out our short evaluation form below.

Jan Reburiano is a content writer and SEO specialist for law firms focusing on personal injury, disability, employment law, among other practices. He has written and edited numerous articles and created commercial spots for broadcasters that you can find in his LinkedIn. Jan currently lives in Los Angeles, California while writing for clients from around the United States.