Under California law, there are two types of sexual harassment that are actionable claims. The first type, quid pro quo sexual harassment, is the subject of this article. In a nutshell, quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a boss or supervisor requesting some type of sexual favor from a subordinate employee in exchange for some job benefit such as a raise, promotion or better work assignment. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 2, § 11034, subd. (f)(1)) Alternatively, the supervisor suggests or implies some type of negative consequence if the employee does not provide the requested sexual favor. The second type of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, generally involves pervasive comments, photos or other behavior that alter the work environment for the employee. Hostile work environment sexual harassment will be discussed in a subsequent article.
ELEMENTS OF A QUID PRO QUO CLAIM
In order to prevail on a claim for quid pro quo harassment, the employee must prove that their supervisor or other higher-ranking employee made unwelcome sexual advances or comments in exchange for some positive employment benefit, such as a raise or bonus, if the subordinate agrees to the request. Alternatively, the supervisor suggests that the employee will suffer negative consequences if he or she does not agree to the sexual favor. Common examples of positive job benefits that may be suggested by the supervisor include a raise, promotion, job transfer or reassignment. Common examples of negative job consequences if the employee does not agree to the request may include a demotion, unfavorable transfer or reassignment and potentially a termination.
It is important to note that the suggestion of either a positive or negative employment consequence if the employee accepts or rejects the sexual advance may be either express or implied. However, an implied threat or proposal will be more difficult to prove from an evidentiary standpoint. Furthermore, the employee who rejects the sexual advance must suffer some type of adverse action in order to state a claim for quid pro quo sexual harassment. (Hughes v. Pair  46 Cal.4th 1035, 1049) Although the employee may not establish quid pro quo harassment if the supervisor does not follow through with the threat as there is no adverse employment action, there may be other viable claims available.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO?
It is important to keep a written record of any interaction or other conduct by your supervisor that you find offensive. Similarly, file a report or speak with human resources about the harassment for several reasons. First, documentary evidence that human resources and correspondingly your employer is extremely helpful in proving your case. Second, an employer has an obligation to investigate complaints of harassment as it must take reasonable steps to insure that the workplace is free of discrimination or harassment. (California Government Code §12940[k]). Further, your employer is prohibiting against you for reporting harassment. (California Government Code §12940[h]). Lastly, you should speak with an experienced employee rights’ attorney if you have any questions and receive the guidance you need.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any type of workplace harassment or discrimination, contact the Perrin Law Group today for your free consultation as you do not need to go it alone.