Sexual Harassment: Quid Pro Quo

Massachusetts Law prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.

The standards governing the prohibition of sex discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace are set forth in Massachusetts General Laws chapter 151B.

There are two types of sexual harassment: “quid pro quo” harassment and “hostile work environment” harassment. They may occur independently or concurrently.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Chapter 151B defines “quid pro quo” sexual harassment as: sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when . . . submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions.

To prove a claim for quid pro quo harassment, the employee must establish the following elements:

  • That the alleged harasser made sexual advances or sexual requests, or otherwise engaged in conduct of a sexual nature;
  • the sexual conduct was unwelcome;
  • he or she rejected such advances, requests or conduct; and
  • the terms or conditions of his or her employment were then adversely affected.

or

  • That the alleged harasser made sexual advances or sexual requests, or otherwise engaged in conduct of a sexual nature;
  • the sexual conduct was unwelcome;
  • he or she submitted to such advances, requests or conduct; and
  • when he or she submitted to the unwelcome sexual conduct, he or she did so in reasonable fear of adverse employment action.

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employee with authority or control over the terms and conditions of another employee’s work offers her a work benefit or advantage in exchange for sexual favors or gratification.  Conversely, if an employee is denied a work benefit or advantage due to her refusal to respond to, or rejection of, requests for sexual favors or gratification, she is subjected to quid pro quo harassment.  Thus, either submission to, or rejection of, unwelcome sexual advances may result in quid pro quo harassment if the terms or conditions of one’s employment are impacted.  Examples of such impact may include but are not limited to: termination; demotion; denial of promotion; transfer; alteration of duties, hours or compensation; or unjustified performance reviews.

For a free consultation regarding discrimination in the workplace, please call Considine & Furey, LLP at 617-723-7200.

Posted by Mark D. Donovan, Esq.

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