quid pro quo sexual harrassment

Sexual harassment is an unfortunate reality in working people’s lives worldwide. Under federal law, sexual harassment is illegal in many circumstances.

There are two types of sexual harassment claims: hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment. Workplace sexual harassment is a form of sex-based discrimination. 

At Pines Federal, we focus on defending federal employees suing the government for wrongdoing. Our federal employment sexual harassment lawyers are passionate about protecting employees and helping them fight back.

If you are being or have been sexually harassed at work, contact us online or call (800) 801-0598 to discuss your options.

What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws many types of workplace discrimination, including discrimination based on sex.

Specifically, it declares it unlawful for an employer to fail to hire a person, fire a person, or provide different “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of the person’s sex. 

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when someone in a supervisory position explicitly or implicitly conditions a term or condition of employment on submission to sexual advances. 

This can look like:

  • Threatening to fire, demote, or refuse to hire someone;
  • Threatening to take away resources;
  • Promising to promote, give a raise, or hire someone; or
  • Promising special perks like the best office.

Something must be promised or threatened in exchange for something else to qualify as quid pro quo sexual harassment. Workplace quid pro quo must involve someone with authority to affect your employment. 

How to Prove Quid Pro Quo Harassment

To prove your employer is liable for quid pro quo harassment, you must show:

  • Someone with supervisory authority made sexual advances toward you;
  • The advances conditioned a term or condition of your employment on submission;
  • You considered those advances unwelcome; and
  • The harasser’s conduct can be attributed to the employer.

Gathering evidence is key to proving your quid pro quo claim. 

Evidence you may rely on includes:

  • Your statements explaining what happened;
  • Your supervisor’s statements explaining what happened; 
  • Statements from witnesses to the harassment;
  • Statements from people you discussed the harassment with close in time to its occurrence; and
  • Written documentation containing or referencing harassing conduct, like emails or text messages.

Save any writing you receive that implies your supervisor is requesting a sexual favor in exchange for changes to your employment. 

The Claim Process

Like most employees, federal employees are protected by Title VII. However, the process of filing a discrimination complaint varies.

All employees start by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Since the EEOC is a federal agency, its relationship with other federal agencies is unique.

Each federal agency must have a designated EEO office and post information about how employees can contact their office.

Usually, you must contact the office within 45 days of the discriminatory conduct, a quicker timeline than the 180- or 300-day deadlines for non-federal employees. 

After you contact the EEO office, you work with the EEOC to attempt to resolve your claims. If you are unsatisfied with the results of the EEOC process, you can file a lawsuit in federal court. 


The usual remedy for discrimination is to attempt to put you in the position you would have been in if the discrimination had not occurred.

When you have been targeted by sexual harassment, the effects can be devastating, and filing a complaint or suing may never fully right the harm done. However, you may be able to mitigate the impact and hold your harasser accountable for their bad behavior.  

Equitable Relief

You will likely be offered equitable relief to remedy the discrimination you suffered. Equitable relief involves directly addressing the effect of discrimination on your employment.

For example, you may be offered reinstatement if you were improperly fired or a promotion if you were improperly passed over.

If the position is no longer available, you should be offered a “substantially equivalent position.” This relief is usually backdated to the time of the adverse employment action.

Equitable remedies usually include back pay totaling your lost wages or the difference in wages that you should have received. Back pay can include interest for up to two years before the complaint was filed.

In cases where reinstatement is not possible, such as where no substantially equivalent position is available or you cannot return to the environment, you may also be awarded front pay. Front pay will usually last until you can right your career trajectory.


You may also be able to recover compensatory damages, divided between economic (pecuniary) and noneconomic (nonpecuniary) damages.

Economic damages include tangible expenses caused by the discrimination, like medical bills. Noneconomic damages involve more intangible consequences, like pain and suffering.

In contrast to most employers, when you sue the government for discrimination, you cannot recover punitive damages.

Contact Our Law Firm for Assistance

If you are a federal employee and may have been targeted by quid pro quo sexual harassment, contact the experienced employment discrimination attorneys at Pines Federal.

Sexual harassment can cause you to second guess your own judgment, especially when perpetrators deliberately try to obscure their actions.

Speaking to one of our experienced, compassionate attorneys can help determine whether you have a legal claim for quid pro quo harassment, a hostile work environment, or both. 

Learn how we can help you by calling (800) 801-0598 or reaching us online today.