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Can employers make employment decisions based on sexual demands?

Category: Sexual Harassment

Workers all across San Jose want to be recognized at their job for fulfilling their employment duties. When someone does well, the expectation is that there will be positive acknowledgement from supervisors. Alternatively, if someone does poorly or makes a serious mistake, there is the strong possibility of consequences such as demotions, termination or other penalties.

It is up to an employer to decide how and when to take action, either positive or punitive, against an employee. However, it is crucial for all California employees to know that it is not legal for an employer to make these decisions based on an employee’s fulfillment or denial of sexual demands. This is known as quid pro quo harassment, and it is unlawful in the workplace.

Quid pro quo harassment may be a little easier to prove than other types of harassment, as there is often tangible evidence that such an exchange occurred. There may be emails, text messages or voicemails that show an employer’s intent to engage in sexual conduct with an employee.

If a supervisor then makes a significant decision based on an employee’s acceptance or refusal of these advances, it could be considered quid pro quo harassment and the victim may have grounds to file a legal complaint.

Examples of this unlawful behavior are varied, but could include the following scenarios.

  • A supervisor offers a job candidate a position only if he or she goes on a date;
  • A supervisor fires an employee for refusing to engage in a sexual relationship;
  • A supervisor skips over an employee for a promotion because he or she objected to sexual misconduct.

In any of these situations, the supervisor is offering “something for something,” which is the definition of quid pro quo.

Victims of this type of harassment can be scared, ashamed or embarrassed of the situation in which they find themselves. However, it is crucial for people to remember that they should not be subjected to this type of environment and are entitled to protect their employment rights by speaking with an attorney and taking legal action against the offending employer.

Source:, “What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?” accessed on Aug. 5, 2014

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