JS Tip 457: Understanding the Law about Sexual Harassment

From the Sexual Harassment Workshops: Understanding the Law


  • Workplace sexual harassment has been a major item in the news lately. It’s an important issue. The last time we addressed the topic was two years ago.


    Be aware: This is a sensitive issue.

According to the law—the Federal law—sexual harassment takes two forms:


  • Quid pro quo
  • Hostile work environment

This week, we’ll explore quid pro quo.

Next week, we’ll explore hostile work environment.

Quid pro quo is a Latin term for “This for that.” It means, “You give me this, and I’ll give you that.” In terms of sexual harassment, it means promotion for sexual favors, or better assignment for sexual favors. (It may also mean threatening: “Unless you do this, I’ll fire you” or “I’ll transfer you.”)

Victims include not only the person offered the promotion or better assignment (or threatened with firing or transfer), but anyone else cheated of fair consideration for the promotion or better assignment.

Quid pro quo damages individuals and organizations. It destroys trust. It’s illegal in all states and a federal crime (a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act).

It’s equally wrong—and equally illegal—whether the victim resists (and suffers the harm) or submits (and avoids the harm).

Quid pro quo is wrong. 

It’s a violation. Be careful. Be aware.  


Mark Brooks