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Quid pro quo and Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment: Explained

Law Centrum

15 Oct 2022

Quid pro quo work environment Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase meaning: “this for that” or “something for something”. It is a sexual harassment that involves a proposed exchange of actions. One party forces the other party to offer sex in return for recruitment, promotion or salary raise within the first party's powers, and threatens to demote, cut the salary or even fire the second party if rejected. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can also occur as part of a threat, specifically a threat to remove a job benefit unless a demand is met. This type of harassment involves a harasser who has authority over the victim.

For example:

Employee working on contract basis approaches her boss to request a permanent position. The boss responds that, if the employee agrees to join him for dinner to discuss about her future, she can be retained on as a permanent employee.

Hostile work environment Sexual Harassment

When one party interferes with the work performance of the other employees in an unreasonable manner, or intentionally leaves the victim in an intimidated or hostile work environment, or expose other employee to a rude, lewd and uncomfortable work environment, it constitutes a hostile environment sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment may also lead to hostile work environment.

For example:

A meeting is held by a superior in an organization to discuss the performance of the contract employees in his cabin. During the course of meeting, he paused and expressed his discomfort of sitting on the worn revolving chair.  He stated that “there is something wrong with the chair".  While the supervisor was still seated, one of the female employees abruptly walked over to him, squatted down, and began adjusting the chair's lever while indicating that "the lever might be loose." Is everything okay now Sir”, she then asked him? The supervisor shook his body slightly and said, "No."  After moving a bit forward and adjusting the lever, the employee again asked "Is it better now Sir?". "Yes," he answered. Then, the supervisor casts a quick glance at the other employees and remarked, "This is how the employees are meant to work". This behaviour of the supervisor and employee has put other employees into an embarrassing situation.

Thus, the quid pro quo sexual harassment on one employee can lead to hostile work environment of other employees.

Why sexual harassment has to be prevented?

  1. Jeopardizes the victims’ right to living.

  2. Sexual harassment results in the violation of a woman’s fundamental right to equality

  3. Protections against sexual harassment in the workplace are written into law

  4. It impedes women’s equal access to, equitable treatment and opportunities in employment.

  5. Sexual harassment in the workplace increases absenteeism 

  6. The negative impacts do not stop at an injury to the one individual. It has a ripple and multiplier effect on the rest of the workers in the organization, impacting the workplace and bringing negative consequences such as compromised team work, economic loss, impaired productivity, and hindered development.

  7. sexual harassment impedes the achievement of equality between men and women as it condones sex discrimination and sexual violence, and has detrimental effects on the development of the country as a whole and the well-being of people.

List Of Behaviours Likely to Constitute Unlawful Sexual Harassment

  • unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing

  • inappropriate staring or leering that made you feel intimidated

  • Looking someone up and down (elevator eyes)

  • sexual gestures, indecent exposure or inappropriate display of the body

  • Facial expressions such aswinking, licking lips, throwing kisses

  • Unwanted personal gifts

  • Publicly watching pornography

  • sexually explicit pictures, posters or gifts that made you feel offended

  • repeated or inappropriate invitations to go out on dates

  • intrusive questions about your private life or physical appearance that made you feel offended

  • sexually explicit comments made in emails, SMS messages or on social media or indecent phone calls – “Digital sexual abuse”

  • inappropriate physical contact

  • being followed, watched or someone loitering nearby

  • sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made you feel offended

  • sharing or threatening to share intimate images or film of you without your consent

  • actual or attempted rape or sexual assault, and any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that occurred online or via some form of technology.




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