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What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?

Human interactions in the workplace can be complex and sometimes the lines between what is ok and what isn’t can blur. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can occur when a job benefit is offered like a subtle bribe; a pay raise for a dinner date, for example. This type of sexual harassment in the workplace can easily slip under the radar and if not dealt with correctly, can lead to a company lawsuit and serious reputation damage.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment typically involves individuals with supervisory authority over a worker. The harasser has the ability to grant or withhold job benefits, pressurising the victim for sexual favors in order to gain a promotion or raise, or even to avoid being fired or demoted. 


Employers may not even be aware that this is happening, as the victim may feel that their job is at risk from both sides. Workplace harassment prevention needs to be put in place to:

  • Help protect vulnerable employees
  • Clearly define the line between right and wrong
  • Provide guidelines to help management 

Quid pro quo sexual harassment training is imperative in 2019. A single incident is enough to trigger a lawsuit, so it’s critical for anyone in a position of power to not only have the right information to prevent it, but also to be able to spot it. 


Managers, supervisors and HR need to be able to see the signs of quid pro quo harassment in the workplace. Things to look out for include:


  • An employee that seems to be advancing far quicker than usual

  • An underperforming employee who keeps their job as others are let go 

  • Signs of favoritism towards an employee 

  • Unusually close relationship between a manager and subordinate

  • Pay increases that aren’t in line with performance


Sexual harassment quid pro quo can sometimes seem like something completely innocent to the naked eye. For example, a manager may ask a colleague out for dinner. They decline, but the manager then mentions that they may want to talk about a possible promotion. This puts the employee in a difficult position, as they doesn’t want to jeopardize their chances by turning down the manager. This is the kind of situation quid pro quo sexual harassment typically involves.


There’s a fine line between what is and what isn’t quid pro quo sexual harassment. What is ok for one person may not be ok for another. Workplace interactions can be complex and even awkward, but here are a few examples of situations that are not quid pro quo sexual harassment:

  • A relationship between a superior and subordinate that is consensual and doesn’t affect employment decisions.

  • A consensual relationship between employees who are not in any position to influence decisions against each other in the workplace.


All employers may want to maintain records on employee sexual harassment training to avoid claims of non-compliance. If training is mandated, failure to provide it as required will make an employer much more vulnerable to liability should an employee sue in court for sexual harassment. Where unlawful sexual harassment is found, ignoring the training mandates opens up an employer to punitive damages, which are often several times greater than the employee’s compensatory damages.

Education and harassment prevention training is the only way to protect employees from these unwelcome situations. To find out how we can help you to secure a safe working environment for all of your employees, please call us at (866) GO-VUBIZ or (866) 468-8249 or email us at