Bad bosses: Beware quid pro quo harassment

stop harassmentTo win a quid pro quo sexual harassment case, an employee has to show that both of the following occurred:  

  • A supervisor made unwelcome sexual advances, asked for sexual favors or committed verbal or physical acts of a sexual nature
  • The employee submitting was a condition of employment or that refusing to submit resulted in other punishment.

Always carefully analyze such a situation. If the employee who has come forward submitted to the advances, what exactly did the supervisor threaten? Discharge, demotion, pay cuts and changed shifts can all be viewed as substantial quid pro quo threats.

Likewise, if the employee tells you she refused and then the supervisor fired her, demoted her, cut her pay or otherwise substantially altered her working conditions, it’s probably a case of quid pro quo harassment.

On the other hand, if it was a consensual relationship with no specific or implicit threat to working conditions, then there likely isn’t a case. The same is true if refusing the supervisor’s advances did not result in punishment.

Recent case: Emmanuela, an obstetrician for a medical clinic, alleged that a supervisor threatened to withhold her paycheck if she refused his sexual advances.

Later, her contract wasn’t renewed. She sued, alleging quid pro quo sexual harassment.

She lost the case because she never claimed that she either submitted to the advances or that she refused and then her supervisor arranged to withhold her paycheck. (Cherisme v. AIDS Care Group, No. 15-6420, ED PA, 2016)