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An example of quid pro quo harassment is when a supervisor at a company explicitly or implicitly offers an employee a promotion, raise, or other job-related benefit in exchange for sexual favors. For instance, a female employee might be approached by her male boss, who suggests that her chances for a promotion would significantly improve if she agrees to go on a date with him or engage in a sexual relationship. This creates a coercive environment where the employee feels pressured to comply in order to advance her career, resulting in a clear abuse of power and a violation of workplace ethics and legal standards. Such scenarios highlight the unequal power dynamics and the inappropriate leveraging of professional benefits to obtain personal favors, which is fundamentally what constitutes quid pro quo harassment.

An Example of Quid Pro Quo Harassment


Imagine Sarah, a dedicated marketing associate at a mid-sized company. She has been eyeing a promotion to a managerial position to significantly enhance her career. During her annual performance review, her boss, Mr. Johnson, praised her work and subtly implied that her promotion was within reach. However, he later sends her a private message suggesting they discuss her career prospects over dinner. At dinner, Mr. Johnson clarifies that her promotion depends on her willingness to engage in a romantic relationship with him. Feeling trapped and fearing professional retaliation, Sarah faces a moral and ethical dilemma.

Why This Example Is Significant

What Is An Example Of Quid Pro Quo Harassment

This example is illustrative of quid pro quo harassment because it encapsulates the core elements of such misconduct:

Coping with Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Recognize the Signs:

  • Unusual Requests: Pay attention to any suggestions or requests from a superior that imply a personal relationship is necessary for professional advancement.
  • Implied Threats: Be wary of subtle threats or implications that refusal could negatively affect your career.

Document Everything:

  • Keep Records: Maintain a detailed record of all interactions with the harasser, including dates, times, locations, and the nature of the conversations.
  • Save Evidence: Preserve any written communications, such as emails, text messages, or notes, that corroborate the harassment.

Seek Support:


  • Emotional Support: Seek counseling or therapy to manage the emotional impact of the harassment.
  • Work-Life Balance: Engage in activities outside of work that help you relax and maintain a positive mindset.

Consider Alternatives:

  • Internal Transfer: If possible, request a transfer to another department to distance yourself from the harasser.
  • New Employment: In extreme cases, it might be necessary to seek employment elsewhere to escape the toxic environment.


Quid pro quo harassment is a serious violation of workplace ethics and can have severe emotional and professional repercussions for the victim. By recognizing the signs, documenting interactions, seeking support, and caring for one’s mental health, individuals can better navigate such challenging situations and protect their rights and well-being.


How Can Victims of Quid Pro Quo Harassment Gather Evidence to Support Their Claims?

Victims of quid pro quo harassment can gather evidence by meticulously documenting every instance of harassment. Keeping a detailed journal is essential; this should include dates, times, locations, and descriptions of all relevant conversations and interactions. Save any written communications that support your claims, such as emails, text messages, or voicemails where the harasser makes inappropriate requests or insinuates a quid pro quo arrangement. Additionally, if there were any witnesses to the harassment, note their names and what they observed. Gathering this evidence can be crucial when reporting the harassment to HR or taking legal action, as it helps substantiate your experience and provides a clear timeline of events.

What Are Some Common Signs of Quid Pro Quo Harassment in the Workplace?

Common signs of quid pro quo harassment in the workplace include any situation where a superior makes your professional advancement contingent upon personal favors, typically sexual. This might manifest as a boss suggesting that your performance review, promotion, or raise is dependent on spending personal time with them. Other signs include unwanted advances, suggestive comments, or inappropriate touching, especially when these actions are linked to discussions about your job. Subtle threats or hints that refusing such advances could lead to negative consequences like demotion, poor evaluations, or job loss are also strong indicators. Recognizing these signs is crucial in understanding that such behavior is unacceptable and warrants action.

Can Quid Pro Quo Harassment Involve Non-Sexual Favors or Requests?

While quid pro quo harassment most commonly involves sexual favors, it can also extend to other types of personal favors or requests. For example, a supervisor might demand that an employee-run personal errands, provide financial loans, or perform other non-work-related tasks in exchange for job-related benefits like promotions, raises, or even continued employment. These non-sexual requests still constitute quid pro quo harassment because they exploit the power imbalance between the harasser and the victim and create an environment where professional advancements are unfairly conditioned upon personal compliance. Recognizing that quid pro quo harassment is not limited to sexual advances helps in identifying and addressing all forms of this misconduct.

Junaid Khan

Junaid Khan JD/MBA (Human Resources Management) is an expert on harassment laws since 2009. He is a passionate advocate for victims of harassment and works to educate the public about harassment laws and prevention. He is also a sought-after speaker on human resource management, relationships, parenting, and the importance of respecting others.

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