The law in British Columbia protects workers from sexual harassment, but they need to speak up to make use of those protections. Many workers have a hard time fighting back against sexual harassment, including quid pro quo harassment, for various reasons. Workers benefit from understanding what quid pro quo harassment looks like and how to deal with it.
What does quid pro quo harassment look like?
Quid pro quo means “something for something” in Latin, which can generally apply to any contract or agreement. One party agrees to do something for another in return for services or other payment. However, sometimes, it involves inappropriate offers for their personal gratification.
A quid pro quo sexual harassment scenario often involves a manager or someone else in a position of authority. They offer career benefits or threaten professional consequences to persuade you into an intimate relationship. While the Hollywood “casting couch” may be the first example of quid pro quo sexual harassment that comes to mind, these issues may arise in lots of other contexts. For example, a manager deciding who to recommend for a promotion might attempt to solicit favours from an employee. A manager may agree to overlook a mistake in exchange for inappropriate contact with them. Other times, a request for certain acts or concessions may come with the threat of a work-related punishment, like a write-up or termination.
What to do after an incident
If an employee experiences quid pro quo harassment, documentation will be important to any future complaint or legal proceeding. Keep copies incriminating written exchanges and recordings; tell someone you trust; make a note of what happened and keep it somewhere safe.
This information is crucial whether you plan to address the matter with your employer or ultimately take legal action.
Workplace sexual harassment must be taken very seriously. We encourage employees who are concerned about sexual harassment, or employers in need of assistance when faced with a complaint by an employee, to reach out to one of our lawyers as soon as possible to understand the available options and best practices moving forward.