Quid pro quo sexual harassment, also known as “this for that,” sexual harassment, occurs when a person in a position of power, such as a supervisor or manager, uses their authority to demand or hint at sexual favors in exchange for job benefits or other rewards. These benefits include promotions, raises, better assignments, or job retention. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a serious form of sexual harassment that can have a devastating impact on victims, both personally and professionally.
Here are 14 infamous workplace quid pro quo sexual harassment cases:
- Roger Ailes and Gretchen Carlson (Fox News)
- Harvey Weinstein and Multiple Women (Entertainment Industry)
- Bill O’Reilly and Numerous Women (Fox News)
- Les Moonves and Multiple Women (CBS)
- Mario Batali and Multiple Women (Restaurant Industry)
- Matt Lauer and Brooke Nevins (NBC News)
- Scott Pruitt and Two Women (Environmental Protection Agency)
- Michael O’Neil and Multiple Women (Uber)
- Martin Sorrell and Multiple Women (WPP)
- David Geffen and Brett Ratner (WarnerMedia)
- Russell Simmons and Multiple Women (Music Industry)
- Eddie Lampert and Multiple Women (Sears Holdings)
- Andrew Cuomo and Multiple Women (New York State Government)
- Rick Scott and Multiple Women (Florida State Government)
Infamous Workplace Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Cases
1. Roger Ailes and Gretchen Carlson (Fox News)
In 2016, Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, filed a lawsuit against Roger Ailes, the former chairman and CEO of Fox News, alleging that he had sexually harassed her for years and had retaliated against her after she refused his advances. Carlson’s lawsuit sparked a wave of allegations against Ailes from other women, and he eventually resigned from his position at Fox News. Ailes denied the allegations until he died in 2017.
The Ailes-Carlson case profoundly impacted Fox News and the broader media landscape. It led to a reckoning about sexual harassment in the workplace and helped to fuel the #MeToo movement. The case also led to changes at Fox News, including the adoption of new policies and training on sexual harassment.
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2. Harvey Weinstein and Multiple Women (Entertainment Industry)
In 2017, a series of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein were published in The New York Times and The New Yorker. These allegations, spanning decades, include rape, forced oral sex, and unwanted groping. Weinstein denied the allegations, but he was eventually convicted of rape and sexual assault in 2020.
Impact of the case on the entertainment industry and the #MeToo movement
The Weinstein case sparked a wave of similar allegations against other powerful men in the entertainment industry and beyond, fueling the #MeToo movement. The movement encouraged women to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, and it led to a cultural shift in how society views and addresses sexual misconduct.
3. Bill O’Reilly and Numerous Women (Fox News)
Bill O’Reilly, a former Fox News host, was ousted from the network in 2017 after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and retaliation. The allegations against O’Reilly spanned decades and included verbal abuse, unwanted advances, and threats of retaliation. O’Reilly denied the allegations, but he reached settlements with five of the women.
The O’Reilly case was one of several that rocked Fox News after the Roger Ailes scandal. The allegations against O’Reilly led to calls for his dismissal, and he was eventually forced out of the network in April 2017. The case also had a significant financial impact on Fox News, as it reportedly paid out over $45 million in settlements to O’Reilly’s accusers.
4. Les Moonves and Multiple Women (CBS)
In July 2018, The New Yorker published an article by Ronan Farrow detailing allegations of sexual misconduct against Les Moonves, the chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation. Six women accused Moonves of sexual harassment, including forced oral sex, unwanted touching, and retaliation after they rebuffed his advances. The allegations spanned decades, from the 1980s to the 2000s.
Moonves initially denied the allegations, but he resigned from his position in September 2018 after six more women came forward with accusations. He has never been criminally charged with wrongdoing but has faced civil lawsuits from several accusers.
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5. Mario Batali and Multiple Women (Restaurant Industry)
Mario Batali, a renowned celebrity chef, faced numerous allegations of sexual misconduct from multiple women spanning over two decades. These accusations included groping, inappropriate comments, and sexual assault. The allegations surfaced in 2017, prompting Batali to leave his restaurant empire and face legal repercussions. In 2019, he was found not guilty of indecent assault and battery in one of the cases but settled with two of the victims in 2021. Batali also agreed to pay $600,000 to 20 former employees as a result of a four-year investigation of sex-based discrimination at his restaurants.
The allegations against Batali highlighted the prevalence of sexual misconduct in the restaurant industry and sparked a broader conversation about workplace safety and gender equality. The #MeToo movement played a significant role in bringing these accusations to light and empowering women to speak out against sexual harassment and assault.
6. Matt Lauer and Brooke Nevins (NBC News)
In November 2017, NBC News terminated Matt Lauer, a prominent anchor on the “Today” show, following allegations of sexual harassment. Brooke Nevils, a former colleague who worked with Lauer during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, made the accusations. Nevils filed a complaint with NBC, claiming that Lauer engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior during the event.
Lauer denied the allegations, stating that any relations with Nevils were consensual and mutually agreed upon. Despite his denial, NBC conducted an internal investigation that led to his dismissal, citing a violation of company standards. The network emphasized its commitment to fostering a workplace free of harassment and took prompt action in response to the serious nature of the allegations.
Following the termination, it was revealed that Lauer and Nevils had reached a settlement to resolve the matter. The terms of the settlement were not publicly disclosed. The incident added to the growing #MeToo movement, shedding light on issues of sexual harassment and misconduct within the media industry and prompting discussions about workplace culture and accountability.
7. Scott Pruitt and Two Women (Environmental Protection Agency)
Scott Pruitt, the former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), faced controversy during his tenure in 2018. Two incidents involving Pruitt and female staffers raised concerns about his conduct and management practices. The first involved allegations that Pruitt had given substantial pay raises to two close aides, Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp, using a Safe Drinking Water Act loophole. Pruitt later defended the raises, claiming he was unaware of the specifics.
The second incident involved allegations that Pruitt had sought a job for his wife, Marlyn Pruitt, with a salary of $200,000 or more from conservative political donors. Pruitt denied any wrongdoing, asserting that the accusations were part of a politically motivated smear campaign. Despite Pruitt’s denials, these controversies contributed to a broader public perception of ethical lapses and lavish spending during his time as EPA Administrator. The controversies eventually led to Pruitt’s resignation in July 2018.
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8. Michael O’Neil and Multiple Women (Uber)
In April 2018, Michael O’Neil, an Uber driver in the San Francisco Bay Area, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault and false imprisonment. He was accused of assaulting six women who had been his passengers. O’Neil pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The case came to light after one of O’Neil’s victims went to the police and reported the assault. The victim told police that O’Neil had picked her up in the early morning hours of January 11, 2018, and that he had assaulted her while she was in his car.
After the victim’s report, police began investigating O’Neil and found that he had been accused of assaulting five other women in similar incidents. In all of the cases, the women said that O’Neil had picked them up in the early morning hours and that he had assaulted them while they were in his car.
O’Neil was arrested in April 2018 and charged with multiple counts of sexual assault and false imprisonment. He was held without bail pending trial.
In September 2018, O’Neil pleaded not guilty to all charges. His trial is scheduled to begin in January 2019.
The case has been highly publicized, raising questions about the safety of Uber riders. Uber has said that it is taking steps to improve the safety of its riders, including requiring all drivers to undergo background checks and adding a panic button to the app.
However, some critics have said that Uber needs to do more to protect its riders. They have argued that the company should do more to verify driver identities and provide riders with more information about their drivers.
9. Martin Sorrell and Multiple Women (WPP)
Martin Sorrell, the former CEO of WPP, the world’s largest advertising company, has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. In 2018, Sorrell was forced to step down from his position at WPP after allegations surfaced that he had engaged in inappropriate behavior with several female employees.
The allegations against Sorrell first came to light in an investigation by The New York Times, which published a report in December 2017 detailing the accounts of several women who said Sorrell had harassed them. The women accused Sorrell of making unwanted advances, engaging in inappropriate touching, and creating a hostile work environment.
In response to the allegations, WPP launched an independent investigation into Sorrell’s conduct. The investigation concluded that Sorrell had engaged in “inappropriate behavior” and had breached the company’s code of conduct. WPP’s board of directors then voted to remove Sorrell from his position as CEO.
Sorrell has denied all allegations against him and has never been charged with any crime. However, the allegations have tarnished his reputation and have led to calls for him to be held accountable for his actions.
The allegations against Sorrell are part of a broader movement against sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. In recent years, there have been several high-profile cases of men in powerful positions being accused of sexual misconduct. These cases have helped to raise awareness of the issue of sexual harassment and have led to several changes in the workplace, including stricter anti-harassment policies and increased training for employees.
The allegations against Sorrell are serious and disturbing. They highlight the need for all workplaces to be free from sexual harassment and discrimination. It is important for employers to create a culture of respect and to take all allegations of harassment seriously.
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10. David Geffen and Brett Ratner (WarnerMedia)
In October 2019, David Geffen, the co-founder of DreamWorks Animation and a major shareholder in WarnerMedia, was accused of sexual harassment by Brett Ratner, a film director and producer. Ratner alleged that Geffen had made unwanted advances toward him on multiple occasions, including groping him and attempting to kiss him. Geffen denied the allegations, calling them “false and fabricated.” No charges were ever filed against Geffen, and the case was settled out of court in 2020.
11. Russell Simmons and Multiple Women (Music Industry)
Russell Simmons, a renowned music mogul and co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, faced multiple accusations of sexual harassment and assault in 2017. Three women, including Drew Dixon, a former Def Jam executive, Tina Baker, a singer, and Jenny Lumet, a screenwriter, came forward with allegations of rape. The accusations spanned from the 1980s to the early 2000s, highlighting the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry. While Simmons vehemently denied all the allegations, the accusations tarnished his reputation and led to the termination of his relationship with Def Jam.
12. Eddie Lampert and Multiple Women (Sears Holdings)
Eddie Lampert, the former CEO of Sears Holdings, has been accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. The women have alleged that Lampert made inappropriate comments and advances towards them and that he created a hostile work environment. Lampert has denied the allegations.
13. Andrew Cuomo and Multiple Women (New York State Government)
In 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James investigated sexual harassment allegations against then-Governor Andrew Cuomo. The investigation found that Cuomo had sexually harassed multiple women, both current and former state employees. The allegations included unwanted touching, inappropriate comments, and retaliation against one of the accusers. Cuomo denied the allegations but was forced to resign in August 2021.
14. Rick Scott and Multiple Women (Florida State Government)
Multiple women accused Rick Scott, during his time as governor of Florida, of ignoring their complaints about sexual harassment and assault within the state government. Melissa Alford, a state employee, alleged that her boss harassed and groped her, but the state found “no cause” due to a lack of witnesses. Alford sued the state, potentially costing taxpayers $250,000, questioning Scott’s understanding of the issue and his handling of such complaints.
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