Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a form of sexual harassment where someone demands sexual favors in return for things like promotions or letters of recommendation. This differs from hostile environment sexual harassment, where a harasser makes the workplace unpleasant with sexual advances. Penalties for quid pro quo sexual harassment can vary, depending on the case, and they usually include discipline such as being removed from a position of authority.
This form of sexual harassment, which takes its name from the Latin term meaning "something for something," can work in several ways. A person in a position of power may punish someone for refusing sexual advances or for choosing to end a sexual relationship. Supervisors, instructors, and other people with the ability to make hiring and firing decisions can potentially commit quid pro quo sexual harassment. People may be denied accommodations, refused letters of reference, or otherwise hindered at work or in school by the person committing the harassment. They can also be told that special favors will be available in exchange for sexual activity.
Sometimes, quid pro quo sexual harassment is as blatant as telling the victim that sexual favors will be required for a promotion or other significant decision. In other cases, it is more subtle. The harasser may make sexual advances, be rebuffed, and then punish the victim by abusing authority. Likewise, someone may start to receive negative performance reviews and other consequences after choosing to end a sexual relationship with a supervisor. Concerns about sexual harassment situations lead many workplaces to place restrictions on sexual relationships where a power differential is involved.
A person who experiences quid pro quo sexual harassment can report it, triggering an investigation. The person under investigation may be temporarily suspended while the investigation takes place if there are concerns about retribution or further abuses of power if the person is left in place. At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will make recommendations about suspension, firing, and other penalties intended to prevent future incidents of sexual harassment.
If a workplace does not respond, the victim can potentially sue the workplace in court for allowing quid pro quo sexual harassment to occur, as well as suing the harasser for damages. Damage awards in such suits vary, depending on the specifics of the case, and may be quite high in cases of blatant and aggressive harassment. People who are experiencing sexual harassment should collect as much evidence as possible, including documentation like emails, memoranda, statements from witnesses, and recordings of conversations. All of this material can assist with an investigation and court case, if necessary.