Article (December-2019)


Quid pro quo harassment @workplace

Dr. Aparna Sharma

Designation : -   Board Member, Thought Leader

Organization : -   Best Selling Author & Motivational Speaker, Mumbai


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What Is it?

Quid pro quo harassment is a type of workplace harassment where one favour is exchanged for another. "Quid pro quo" is a Latin term that essentially means "this for that". Indeed, quid pro quo sexual harassment certainly is "this for that. This harassment occurs when someone with authority uses his or her power over others to gain sexual favours or other benefits or makes hints towards such a deal. Here are some examples of offers these authority figures give in exchange for a favour :

  • Employees will be rewarded with a raise or promotion.
  • Employees won't be fired or reprimanded.
  • Job candidates will be hired.
Quid pro quo harassment is viewed in some cases as employers or managers abusing their power & is the most widely recognised type of sexual harassment.

This type of harassment entails a harasser that is a superior - whether it's a supervisor, manager, professor, or any other person of power - taking advantage of their power over an individual and demanding sexual favours for job benefit. For instance, a manager might offer an employee a highly-prized project or deal which is contingent upon some kind of sexual favour in return. Even if the manager doesn't lay out those terms explicitly, they can sometimes make it clear that the employee's success and progress depends upon their compliance.

While this type of harassment doesn't necessarily have to be between a subordinate and a person of power, it usually is, as the person of power has something that would entice the victim to give in to demands of a sexual and degrading nature - or the victim simply feels she would risk losing opportunities if she doesn't go with the flow.

People in power are able to offer raises, benefits, special deals, recommendations and certain shifts - so it can be easier for them to get away with this behaviour by offering these incentives. This type of harassment is also effective for the harasser because they can also offer a negative consequence to not following through.

They can threaten a demotion, or the firing of the employee. They can assign them gruelling assignments or bad shifts or threaten bad reviews come time for performance reviews.

Sexual harassment that does not include a pro quo arrangement is classified under the second broad type: namely, a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment includes words or actions that are so severe and pervasive that they create a work atmosphere that is abusive and intimidating.

What makes a hostile working environment is behaviour that makes people feel uncomfortable and is of a sexual nature. This can include lewd jokes or obscene material being brought into the office, asking repeatedly for dates and getting in the way physically of others on purpose.

In the eyes of the law, there is no difference between the two types of sexual harassment. Both quid pro quo harassment and harassment that results in a hostile work environment are equally detrimental to a workplace and to the individuals involved.

While it's important to understand the difference between Quid Pro Quo & Hostile Work Environment, it is critical to know that both are types of sexual harassment & are covered under the ambit of POSH.

The manner of investigating and dealing with the complaint under both circumstances may be similar as suggested by the POSH policy in your organisation.