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Quid Pro Quo vs Hostile Working Environment: What’s the Difference?

sexual harassment laws in california

Workers in California should be aware of the protections that federal and state laws provide to them against all types of sexual discrimination at work, including sexual harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recognizes two categories of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Today, we will examine each of these categories and outline the differences between these types of harassment.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment 

Under sexual harassment laws in California, workers can base a sexual harassment complaint on a quid pro quo situation. In this type of harassment, a superior suggests to a worker that they must perform a sexual favor to avoid an adverse situation or gain an advantage at work. California Government Code and FEHA require these elements to be present to have a valid and legal quid pro quo sexual harassment claim:

  • The worker received unwelcome sexual demands, comments, or advances.
  • These sexual advances or demands came from a superior within the organization.
  • If the worker rejected these sexual advances or demands, they had to face an adverse employment action, such as firing from the job, refusal of a promotion, or a demotion. 

The quid pro quo aspect can even be implicit and not necessarily articulated explicitly. The victim of quid pro quo harassment will also have to prove that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between their rejection of sexual advances or demands and the adverse employment consequences. 

If a superior at the workplace threatens adverse employment consequences for a worker after he or she rejects their advances, but they do not carry out the threat in practice, then the victim does not have a claim for quid pro quo harassment. However, the employee might still be able to pursue a claim of hostile work environment harassment. 

Retaining an experienced California sexual harassment attorney is essential. They will be knowledgeable about when hostile work environment harassment or quid pro quo harassment is applicable based on state laws and the details of the situation.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment 

A worker in California will have a hostile work environment sexual harassment claim against their employer if:

  • The worker is a victim of unwelcome sexual conduct, advances, or comments. 
  • The harassment relies upon the victim’s sex in some way. 
  • The harassment is either pervasive or severe enough to create a hostile work environment and change the conditions of employment. 

Sexual harassment laws in California dictate that the sexual conduct, advances, or comments must either be pervasive or severe, though not necessarily both, for there to be a valid hostile work environment claim. An occasional, isolated, or trivial incident will not constitute a hostile work environment in California. 

Moreover, hostile work environment harassment does not necessarily need a basis in sexual attraction, desire, or behavior. California Government Code stipulates that the harasser’s conduct does not require a sexual urge as a driving force. For instance, if a man is frequently directing hostile comments, which may be non-sexual, against women, the victims could have a claim of gender-based harassment.

Speak to a Top-Rated California Sexual Harassment Lawyer Today!

Do you believe you are experiencing quid pro quo or hostile work environment harassment at your workplace? If so, you need a lawyer that’s ready to go to war on your behalf. You need the Law Offices of Jeffrey Fleitman. With unparalleled transparency, personal attention, and exceptional expertise, our team is ready to fight tooth and nail to achieve the best outcome possible. It all starts with a phone call. Call us today at 310-695-1910 or complete our online contact form for a free initial consultation.

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