Quid Pro Quo


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Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in American workplaces. Often times keeping one’s job may depend on acquiescing to the sexual advances of a supervisor or manager. This type of sexual harassment is actionable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Commonly referred to as Quid Pro Quo harassment, supervisors often create hostile work environments by turning the office place into their personal sexual playground. The skilled sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, Pllc, have years of experience litigating claims for sexual harassment in the workplace. We will work hard for each client to ensure they get the representation they deserve for their sexual harassment lawsuit.
If you are an employee and need representation in an employment law issue, contact us for a free review with an employment law attorney today.

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What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Quid pro quo (“something for something” or “this for that” in Latin). Quid pro quo is a form of sexual harassment where the compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of an individual’s employment is predicated on accepting unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. This is distinguished from a “hostile work environment” which is defined as unwelcome sexual conduct when submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment. As contrast, “Quid Pro Quo” harassment occurs when submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for tangible employment decisions.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 never explicitly mentions sexual harassment and many have argued that sexual harassment does not violate Title VII. However, the Court ruled in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, that sexual harassment does violate Title VII, following the EEOC guidelines when evaluating cases based on sexual harassment.

Vinson looked at three main issues: 1) whether the unwelcomed sexual behavior creates a hostile working environment constitutes employment discrimination on the basis of sex; 2) can a Title VII violation be shown when a lower court has found that any sexual relationship is “voluntary;” and 3) whether an employer is strictly liable for an offensive working environment created by a supervisor’s sexual advances when the employer does not know of, and could not reasonably have known of, the supervisors misconduct.
The Supreme Court remanded the case to be analyzed under the “hostile work environment” theory and held that the proper inquiry should focus on the “unwelcomeness” of the conduct as opposed to the voluntariness of the victim’s participation. The Court further rejected the notion that Title VII only prohibits discrimination that causes “economic” or “tangible” injury; holding that Title VII affords employees the right to work in an environment free from discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult. The experienced sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, Pllc, are intimately familiar with Vinson, which outlines the necessary elements to bring a successful sexual harassment claim based on quid pro quo harassment. Our sexual harassment attorneys have used their expertise to successfully litigate the claims of our clients to ensure they get the representation they deserve.

What is a Hostile Work Environment?

The Supreme Court has held that a claim for sexual harassment may be sustained if an individual can establish a violation of Title VII by proving that discrimination based on sex has created a hostile or abusive work environment. In Henson v. City of Dundee the court noted that the sexual harassment which creates a hostile or offensive environment for members of one sex is the arbitrary barrier to sexual equality in the workplace. The Court further stated that sexual harassment is not much different than harassment based on one’s race, stating “ surely, a requirement that a man or women run a gauntlet of sexual abuse in return for the privilege of being allowed to work and make a living can be as demeaning and disconcerting as the harshest of racial epithets.”

The basis of a sexual harassment suit is whether the conduct was unwelcomed. The Court gives no affect to whether the sex-related conduct was “voluntary,’ in the sense that the complainant was not forced to participate against her will, but rather the inquiry should be whether the sexual advances were unwelcomed. The Court acknowledges that sexual attraction plays a role in day-to-day social exchanges. Noting that the difference between invited, uninvited-but –welcome, offensive-but-tolerated, and flatly rejected sexual advances are difficult to discern. The Court attempted to draw a line in the sand by stating that unwelcomed conduct is conduct which the employee did not solicit or incite and that the employee regarded the conduct as undesirable or offensive. The court will look at a totality of the circumstances to determine whether the conduct is unwelcomed. The Court has noted that it is a lot stronger claim when the employee has made formal complaints and protests. In regards to unwelcomed conduct, the Court also looks at whether the victims conduct was consistent, or in consistent with her assertion that the conduct was unwelcome.

Are Companies Liable For The Actions Of Their Supervisors?

The Supreme Court has made it clear that employers are vicariously liable for the unlawful actions of their supervisors. The Court imposes this type of liability for two reasons:

1) employers are liable for the actions of their supervisors and

2) employers are encouraged to prevent harassment in the workplace. In order to bring a claim against an employer, it is necessary to show a tangible employment action.

If there is no tangible employment action an employer can avoid being vicariously liable if it satisfies two elements: 1) the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassing behavior and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise. It may be difficult to determine who is a supervisor under the statute. The statute doesn’t mention “supervisors.” Instead, the statute specifies that employers are responsible for the acts of their “agents.”

The Court has found a clever workaround by holding that supervisors are “agents” within the meaning of the statute. Specifically, an individual qualifies as a supervisor if:

(1) the individual has the authority to recommend a tangible employment decision affecting the employee, or

(2) the individual has the authority to direct the employee’s daily activities.

Generally, tangible employment actions are acts that are undertaken that can significantly change another employee’s employment status, such as hiring, firing, promoting, demoting and reassigning. While that supervisor may not have the final say in the tangible employment action, the Court has held that as long as the individual’s recommendation is given substantial weight by the final decision-makers, then the individual is a supervisor within the meaning of the statute.

A person who directs other employee’s daily work activities, even when they do not have the authority to make a tangible employment action, qualifies as a supervisor under the statute. The Court recognizes the temporal nature of supervisory duties and has ruled that someone who exercises even temporary supervisory authority over another employee is a supervisor within the meaning of the statute. The Court has also stated that an employer may be liable for the actions of an employee outside of the chain of command if the employee being harassed reasonably believes that their harasser had supervisory authority.

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What is Tangible Employment Action?

A tangible employment actions occur when a supervisor brings the official power of the enterprise to bear on subordinates such as when the tangible employment: requires an official act of the enterprise; is usually documented in official company records; may be subject to review by higher-level supervisors; and often requires formal approval of the enterprise and use of its internal processes. A tangible employment action inflicts direct economic harm. A tangible employment action can only be caused by a supervisor or another person acting with a supervisory authority within the company. Further, an employment action qualifies as tangible if it results in a substantial change in employment status.

In order to establish a claim under the statute, an individual must show a causal link between the harassment and the tangible employment action. Once an employee makes a prima facie case for discrimination, the burden shifts to the employer to show a nondiscriminatory reason for the tangible employment action. If an employer can show a nondiscriminatory reason for the tangible employment action, then it is the responsibility of the individual to show that the nondiscriminatory reason was a mere pretext for the actual discriminatory reason for the tangible employment actions.

The experienced sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, Pllc, understand the nuances of sexual harassment in the workplace. Our sexual harassment lawyers have years of experience bringing employment claims based on sexual harassment. We have worked with the EEOC and various state and local agencies in order to get our clients the relief they deserve in their sexual harassment lawsuits.

What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment in New York?

In New York, quid pro quo harassment occurs when a person of authority attempts to trade job benefits for sexual favors. This includes hiring, promotion, and continued employment. This is limited to supervisors and managers because co-workers do not have the authority to grant or withhold job benefits.

New York follows the “hostile environment” theory of sexual harassment, which includes words, signs, jokes, intimidation or physical violence of a sexual nature, or any such activities directed at an individual because of their sex. New York further states that sexual harassment consists of any unwanted verbal or physical advances made in the workplace which are offensive or objectionable to the recipient and cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation which interferes with the recipient’s job performance. While a single incident of inappropriate sexual behavior may not be enough to rise to the level of sexual harassment, a sufficiently severe incident may qualify. The law generally requires the behavior to be severe or pervasive.

Employers are strictly liable for the harassment of their employees at the hands of an owner or high level manager. This means, even without knowledge of the supervisors actions, an employer may be held legally responsible their actions. An employer may be liable for the actions of low-level managers and supervisors if it can be shown the that the lower level manager had a sufficient degree of control over the working conditions of the victim. Further, employers may be liable for the harassment of an employee’s co-worker if the employer knew or should have known about the harassment.

An employer will be liable if they were negligent about preventing or stopping the harassment. If an employee complains of the harassment to a supervisor of the harassment, the knowledge by the supervisor or manager will be considered knowledge by the employer.

Further, under New York Human Rights Laws, it is unlawful for an employer, or an agent of the employer, to retaliate against an employee who has complained of sexual harassment. The law protects any individual engaged in a protected activity. A protected activity includes: anyone who has filed a formal written complaint of sexual harassment, internally with human resources, or with an anti-discrimination agency; an individual has testified or assisted in a proceeding involving sexual harassment under the Human Rights Law; an individual has opposed the sexual harassment by making a verbal or informal complaints to management or, simply informed a supervisor about the harassment; an individual has complained to another employee of being sexually harassed; or an individual has encouraged a fellow employee to report the harassment.

The skilled New York sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, are dedicated to protecting the rights of every employee. Sexual harassment is a pervasive problem in New York workplaces, and our skilled New York sexual harassment attorneys take the case all over the State, fighting for the rights of our clients.

If you are an employee and need representation in an employment law issue, contact us for a free review with an employment law attorney today.

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What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment in New York City?

In New York City, “Quid Pro Quo” harassment consists of an individual being subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct and that the reaction to that conduct was then used as a basis for a decision, either actual or threatened, affecting compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment.

The City of New York generally follows the State law with regards to sexual harassment discrimination. The City has passed its own sexual harassment laws, specifically the NYC Human Rights Law. This law describes discriminatory harassment as any threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion or violence that: 1) interferes with a person’s civil or constitutional rights; and 2) it is motivated in part by that persons actual or perceived sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation, among other protected categories.

Every sexual harassment claim is different. These claims are very fact intensive and bringing a claim by yourself may result in your sexual harassment claim being denied. The New York City sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, Pllc, have years of experience working with New York City Human Rights Laws, often bringing successful sexual harassment claims on behalf of our clients. We treat every sexual harassment case with care to insure our clients get the representation they deserve.

What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment in New Jersey?

New Jersey has passed the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) which prohibits employers from discriminating in any job-related action. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits employers from discriminating in any job-related action, including recruitment, interviewing, hiring, promotions, discharge, compensation and the terms, conditions and privileges of employment on the basis of any of the law’s specified protected categories.

These protected categories are: race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), marital status, domestic partnership or civil union status, affectional or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information liability for military service, or mental or physical disability, including AIDS and HIV related illnesses. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employer, or an employer’s agent, explicitly or implicitly attempts to make a submission to sexual demands a condition of an individual’s employment. When an employee perceives that he or she must tolerate sexual advances to continue employment, to achieve advancement or to avoid an adverse employment consequence, such as evaluations or demotions, it is prohibited quid pro quo harassment under the LAD.
New Jersey also follows a hostile work environment theory of sexual harassment. When an individual is subjected to sexual, abusive or offensive conduct because of their gender, such conduct creates an unlawful work environment when it is so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person of the employee’s gender believe that the conditions of employment have been altered and the working environment has become hostile or abusive. The LAD doesn’t limit the conduct to physical contact.
The skilled New Jersey sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, Pllc, have worked with the LAD, recovering the compensation our clients deserve.

What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment in Pennsylvania?

Under Pennsylvania Human Rights Laws, sexual harassment does not refer to socially acceptable behavior or occasional compliments, but rather it refers to behavior which a reasonable person could, and does, consider unwelcome or personally offensive.

Pennsylvania generally follows the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissions’ guidelines for sexual harassment. Quid Pro Quo harassment is when an individual in a position of authority demands sexual consideration in exchange for the promise of a job, certain job benefits such as raises or promotions, or the promise of continued employment.

Pennsylvania also follows the “hostile work environment” theory of harassment. When unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature creates an atmosphere which unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or an employer creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, the employer is considered to have created a hostile work environment within the meaning of Pennsylvania law. If you believe you have been the victim of sexual harassment in Pennsylvania contact the Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group.

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Contact Our Quid Pro Quo Harassment Lawyer for a Free Consultation

Our experienced sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, have spent years working with the Pennsylvania Code to protect the rights of each of our clients.  We work tirelessly under Federal laws, as well as, the laws of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California and Florida to ensure that our clients get the representation they need. Whether it is quid pro quo harassment or the creation of a hostile work environment, our discrimination attorneys work hard to protect the rights of every client and ensure they get the representation they deserve. If you feel like you have been sexually harassed at work, please give us a call toll-free, at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation about your possible claim.


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