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Quid Pro Quo Harassment – A Continuing Issue

Quid Pro Quo Harassment – A Continuing Issue

Corrupt management can cause you to lose valuable talent

Quid pro quo harassment is a dangerous form of workplace harassment that occurs when someone in a position of power over another (such as a manager or supervisor) directly or indirectly demands something (usually sexual favors) in exchange for some benefit (such as a raise, promotion or favorable scheduling) or lack of some detrimental outcome (such as job termination).  While quid pro quo harassment is nearly always associated with an an exchange of sexual favors, it can manifest when someone offers an employee a benefit (for example) in exchange for not hiring members of a protected class (such as applicants of a certain race).

Focusing on the sexual aspects of quid pro quo harassment, this form of inappropriate behavior is difficult to witness (given the overtness of the acts), and the appearances and inferences others often draw. The mere perception of a quid pro quo exchange of job benefits, (such as a group of employees making observations and assumptions about how an employee got a promotion), can lead to sexual comments an innuendo that is false and based on bias, and can form the basis for hostile environment sexual harassment as well. In any event, quid pro quo harassment (and even the perception it may be tolerated and/or present within an organization) is extremely dangerous and harmful to a healthy workplace culture.

How Common is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

To many, it is inconceivable that this sort of behavior is still prevalent in the modern workplace. According to a study, about 11% of 800 New York employees surveyed (12.25 of women and 9.5% of men) claimed to have been the victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment. The relatively large sample size is valuable, and given these disturbing responses, we can say it is fair that as a similar percentage of employees across the country have arguably been subjected to a humiliating decision of whether to trade sex for a job benefit (or to avoid some detriment).  Given nearly as many men responded having been subjected to this form of harassment as women, it is important that your prevention programs go far beyond teaching individuals that men are always the perpetrators of sexual harassment and never the victim(s), and equally important to educate your workforce about the prevalence of same-sex harassment that can put anyone at a near equal risk to be victims of quid pro quo harassment.

To put the number of allegations of quid pro quo harassment in perspective, it is important to examine these claims in the overall context of sexual harassment in the United States. According to a 2,000 person survey by Stop Street Harassment, 81% of women and 43% of men have experienced some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime. When compared with the responses regarding quid pro quo harassment, hostile environment sexual harassment occurs far more frequently, yet the existence of 1 in 10 employees (male and female) being asked to trade sexual favors for career sustenance or advancement is very concerning. The bottom line is while quid pro quo may occur with lesser frequency, it is still something employees should be educated on and prepared to speak up about in the event it happens to them.

How to stop Quid Pro Quo Harassment

The most essential tool to stop quid pro quo and other forms of harassment is to encourage your employees to report incidents immediately when they occur. By empowering the workforce to speak up and out against abusers of power they will learn to understand it is ok to raise concerns with designated representatives and leaders, and most importantly, that something will be done. In addition to raising awareness about speak up! and other initiatives, it is critical that you offer education to your workforce that will allow them to understand not only what workplace harassment is, but that you are doing all you can to provide the information needed to stop incidents as they occur. Further education for managers on the consequences of their actions, the organization’s intolerance of such behavior, and the potential personal liability for those who engage in quid pro quo harassment is essential to preventing this dangerous form of harassment.

Syntrio welcomes the opportunity to partner with your organization on a detailed plan of education for your employees that is aimed at stopping incidents of workplace harassment from occurring. Syntrio’s industry leading e-learning products and awareness materials are designed to provide your managers and employees with the tools to understand what harassment is, how to stop it, and how to speak up and report concerns before they become more dangerous. By working as members of a team and hand in hand with your workforce, Syntrio can help your organization make a difference, and maintain the positive and healthy workplace culture you strive so hard to achieve. Contact a member of our staff today to learn how we can work together to make your workplace a better and safer place for everyone!

Promote an Affirmative Workplace Culture with Harassment and Discrimination Training

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law on behalf of management. Jonathan focuses his practice on advising employers on the prevention of harassment and discrimination issues, with an emphasis on providing in-person harassment training programs to companies of all sizes. Jonathan is licensed in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and maintains a national advice practice.

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