“Quid pro quo” translates from Latin to English as “this for that.” The basic idea is that of an exchange. I do something for you, and you, in turn, do something for me. You may have heard the saying, “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” This conveys the same underlying message, and it is what is at the heart of quid pro quo sexual harassment claims.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor makes sexual conduct of an employee a condition for employment benefits or advancement, or a condition for avoiding adverse employment action. Adverse employment action may include poor performance reviews and preclusion from advancement or salary increases.
In order to prevail on a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim, a victim must show by a preponderance of the evidence the harasser made unwanted sexual advances or directed behavior of a sexual nature to the purported victim as a condition for receiving concrete employee benefits and/or for avoiding adverse employment action. A “preponderance of the evidence” means that after looking at all the evidence, it is more likely than not that the claimed events occurred.
California Judicial Council Jury Instruction, CACI 2520 states that in order to prove quid pro quo sexual harassment against an employer, a victim must prove the following factual elements:
- That the plaintiff was an employee of the defendant, applied to the defendant for a job, or was a person providing services pursuant to a contract with the defendant;
- That the alleged harasser made unwanted sexual advances to the plaintiff or engaged in other unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature;
- That job benefits were conditioned, by words or conduct, on the plaintiff’s acceptance of the alleged harasser’s sexual advances or conduct; or that employment decisions affecting the plaintiff were made based on the plaintiff’s acceptance or rejection of the harasser’s sexual advances or conduct;
- That at the time of the alleged harasser’s conduct, the alleged harasser was a supervisor or agent for the defendant;
- That the plaintiff was harmed; and
- That the alleged harasser’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing plaintiff’s harm.