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Quid Pro Quo Harassment: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 An Uncomfortable Situation
  • 1:12 This for That
  • 2:25 Examples
  • 2:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Quid pro quo harassment is one of the most common types of sexual harassment. Learn more about quid pro quo from examples, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

An Uncomfortable Situation

Imagine that you are a college student taking a difficult course. You spend extra time studying each week to improve your grades, but you find that you are still failing. Exasperated, you set up a time to meet with your professor to see if he can offer any advice or guidance as to how you can improve your grades.

Once you get to the office, the professor closes the door and sits directly across from you. Instead of giving you advice about your grades, he makes comments about your appearance and asks you about your relationship status. Feeling uncomfortable, you get out of your seat and head toward the door to exit the office. Before you make it to your door, your professor tells you that he will change your F to an A if you agree to go out on a few dates with him.

You leave the office and tell your best friend, who is also a law student, about your conversation with your professor. She explains to you that what your professor did was a form of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is any unwanted or inappropriate sexual advances, comments, or behaviors that are sexual in nature. She also tells you that the deal that your professor offered you is an example of quid pro quo, which in Latin translates to 'this for that.'

This for That

So what exactly is quid pro quo? Quid pro quo is a type of sexual harassment in which a supervisor, professor, or someone who has more power requests sexual favors from a person with less power in exchange for employment or academic benefits.

In the example above, your professor offered to give you an A (academic benefit) if you went out on dates with him (sexual favor). This is clearly a case of quid pro quo, and it is illegal! It does not matter if you resist his offer or if you decide to go out with him to improve your grade. Either way it is quid pro quo harassment. Quid pro quo situations can have a negative effect on the conditions of the workplace or a student's academic progress.

Quid pro quo also includes situations where someone with more power makes threats toward a person with less power about what will happen to them if they do not meet their sexual demands. In the example above, had your professor said, 'Go out on a date with me or else I will fail you,' it would still be considered quid pro quo. Furthermore, quid pro quo does not always have to include a direct verbal request. Non-verbal communication and physical conduct are also included.

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