JS Tip 26: From the Sexual Harassment Workshops: Understanding the Law

According to the law, sexual harassment has two forms: 

  • Quid pro quo
  • Hostile work environment

We’ll explore quid pro quo in this discussion; next week, we’ll explore hostile work environment. 

Quid pro quo is a Latin term for “This for that.” “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 be 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’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 illegal—whether the victim resists (and suffers the harm) or submits (and avoids the harm).