What is Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment?

In prior blogs, we have provided a common-sense definition of sexual harassment and its behavioral characteristics.  But our understanding would be incomplete without an understanding of two important legal concepts, quid pro quo, and hostile environment sexual harassment.

hostile environment

Two Important Legal Concepts

  1. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
  2. Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid Pro Quo is a Latin term which means this for that.  In sexual harassment cases, it means when a supervisor, manager, or someone with real or perceived authority over another employee either states outright or implies that a job benefit can be exchanged for a sexual favor.  This is dark grey and illegal.

Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

To qualify as a hostile environment, conduct must be objectionable, recurring and/or pervasive and it interferes with the employee’s ability to perform his/her job.  It is illegal to create a hostile environment for an employee or co-worker.

Quid Pro Quo Example

Kent is Nancy’s supervisor.  Nancy has been on the job for 3 weeks.  She is a single mom with small children who has been out of work for six months.  Nancy is delighted to have the job.  Kent calls Nancy into his office and begins to discuss her performance.  He criticizes Nancy for many fabricated performance issues.  Then, with his hand on Nancy’s knee, he implies that she can improve her next performance discussion and keep her job by meeting him at the local motel where they could discuss her performance at length.

Hostile Environment Example

Jim has the habit of making sexual inferences and jokes in most conversations making the atmosphere in the workplace sexually charged.  Often the jokes are about someone’s sexual orientation.  Most people laugh it off and some even think it is funny.  However, it makes other people feel uncomfortable.  Those who feel uncomfortable do not know how to get Jim to stop this offensive behavior and are afraid of a confrontation.  They try to give Jim clues that they find the behavior offensive.  They walk away without a response, they just stare at him without laughing.  Jim has not changed his behavior, in fact, it is escalating daily.  Some staff members have observed Jim’s behavior and now engage in similar behaviors.  Other staff members have come to you, the manager and complained.  You do not find the behavior offensive and have done nothing.

Being able to assess an incident is a critical step in stopping and preventing sexual harassment or harassment of any kind. TKEC training can give you the knowledge to prevent a hostile environment.