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What is quid pro quo harassment?

Quid pro quo is Latin for "this for that." Quid pro quo harassment occurs when someone demands an inappropriate thing for a favor or something of value in the workplace. Such requests coming from anyone in the workplace are likely illegal and constitute harassment.

One of the most obvious forms of quid pro quo harassment is a supervisor or boss asking for or demanding sexual favors in return for anything of value. Things of value could include time off, a raise or a promotion. Sometimes, someone does something he or she shouldn't at work or fails to perform up to standards, and someone in power offers to sweep the thing under the rug if the person performs sexual favors. Even if the person did something he or she shouldn't, it does not excuse the person in power from suggesting such a quid pro quo relationship.

A less obvious example of quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employee is discriminated against because he or she ended a romantic or sexual relationship with the boss or someone in power. Employers cannot discipline, fire, demote or dock pay because someone broke up a relationship.

Finally, quid pro quo harassment can even occur among workers at the same level. One worker might blackmail another into performing sexual acts by threatening to release some type of information to the boss or other coworkers. A worker might also offer to help someone else achieve professional success if that person pays back the help with sex.

Any of these situations is harassment, and you as an employee are protected against them. You have a right to report discrimination and harassment and expect a solution without retaliation. If you feel trapped in a harassing situation or feel retaliated against, then you have a right to seek legal action and solutions.

Source: University of Milwaukee, "Quid Pro Quo (This for That) Sexual Harassment," accessed Dec. 04, 2015

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