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How do you prove quid pro quo sexual harassment?

Workplace sexual harassment isn't always as simple or blatant as a manager, colleague or client making an unwanted sexual advance or proposal. Often, there's a "quid pro quo" element. This usually occurs when the harasser has some type of leverage over their victim.

A boss may imply (or outright state) that an employee will get a raise, promotion or something else of value if the employee gives in to the boss's sexual advances. Even more pernicious is when a harasser threatens an employee with termination or demotion if they don't give in.

Quid pro quo harassment can occur before a person is even hired. A manager may tell an applicant (or strongly insinuate) that they'll be hired if they agree to have sex with them.

To make a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, whether within the company, to a government agency or in court, a claimant needs to prove that:

  • Unwanted verbal or physical sexual advances were made.
  • Benefits were conditioned on the claimant's acceptance of the advances or decisions were made based on their acceptance or rejection of the advances.
  • The alleged harasser had the authority to make those promises or threats.
  • The claimant was harmed by the conduct of the alleged harasser.

If a victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment takes the matter to court, they may be able to seek compensatory damages if they lost their job or were demoted or passed over for a promotion because they didn't give into alleged harasser.

However, even if they did submit to their harasser's advances and received the promised benefit (or saved their job), they may still be able to seek damages. Punitive damages for emotional distress are sometimes awarded.

There are time limits for filing a harassment claim with state and federal agencies if you're not able to resolve the problem within the company. Therefore, if you've been the victim of quid pro quo harassment, it's wise not to delay taking action. It may also be wise to consult with an experienced employment law attorney who can advise you of your options based on your specific situation.

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