What is the ‘Quid Pro Quo’ form of inappropriate workplace behaviour?

In general, sexual harassment in the workplace refers to two types of inappropriate behaviour: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.
This blog will concentrate on the Quid Pro Quo form of inappropriate behaviour.

The Latin phrase “quid pro quo” means “this for that” In the workplace, it refers to a situation in which someone in a position of power offers or threatens preferential treatment or harm in exchange for certain conditions. A quid pro quo situation occurs when a manager suggests that they will give an employee a promotion in exchange for a romantic relationship. Alternatively, if a manager implies that an employee will be fired if they do not comply with certain requests, this is also a quid pro quo situation. In a nutshell, quid pro quo is the use of one’s power or influence to make demands or offer rewards in exchange for something else, often at the expense of the other party.

The scenarios presented below are made-up examples based on real-life workplace experiences of women. Please keep in mind that the names used in the examples are fictitious and do not refer to any actual living or deceased people.

Example 1:

Kamini is an intelligent and capable team leader in a call centre. She is well-known for her honesty and hard work, as well as her strong desire to do things perfectly. Kamini stays late at work one evening with her colleague Ravi to finish an important presentation.
Ravi offers to take Kamini out to dinner and drop her off at home because she has had a long day. Following dinner, Ravi proposes to Kamini that she spend the night with him. Kamini politely but firmly declines and returns home. Ravi repeats his request the next evening, but when Kamini declines, he threatens her. Ravi threatens to tell everyone that if Kamini does not agree to his proposal, she made a pass at him.

What is Workplace ‘this for that’ or ‘Quid Pro Quo‘ Sexual Harassment?
In the preceding example, Ravi’s threat to Kamini that if she does not agree to his ‘request’ for a sexual favour, he will smear her character at work as someone who wants to use sexual favours to her advantage is a form of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Ravi’s behaviour is unwanted, sexual, and detrimental to Kamini.

Example 2:

Renuka works as a domestic worker in a household, where she is in charge of everything except cooking. The lady of the house usually leaves early in the morning, leaving Renuka alone in the house with a male member of the household.
Renuka has noticed that the male member frequently looks at her in an unsettling manner, and he walks around the house wearing only a towel, which also makes her uneasy. The man once pinched Renuka’s bottom while she was sweeping. When Renuka objected and said she would complain to the lady of the house, the man threatened to accuse her of stealing and threatened to fire her.

What is Workplace ‘this for that’ or ‘Quid Pro Quo‘ Sexual Harassment?
In the preceding example, the male member commits quid pro quo sexual harassment by threatening Renuka to keep quiet about the
unwanted physical contact if she wants to keep her job. His behaviour in a power matrix is unwanted, sexual, and has a negative impact on Renuka.

Example 3:

Shamima is a lawyer who works as a researcher for a Delhi-based NGO.
She has been employed there since 2013. Dr. Bhavan is the organization’s director and has always been a supporter of human rights.
During a two-day official visit to Shimla, Dr. Bhavan seizes an opportunity to be alone with Shamima and makes a physical move.
Despite Shamima’s protests, Dr. Bhavan forces himself on her while detailing his past and present sexual relationships with women.
He threatens to ruin Shamima’s career after she scolds him and threatens to expose his behaviour.

What is Workplace ‘this for that’ or ‘Quid Pro Quo‘ Sexual Harassment?
Dr. Bhavan commits quid pro quo sexual harassment in the preceding example by threatening to destroy Shamima’s career. His physical advances and sexual conversation are unwelcome for Shamima and take place in a power dynamic.

Quid pro quo, which involves an implied or explicit promise of preferential or detrimental employment treatment or an implied or express threat
about a woman’s current or future employment status can have a significant impact on women.
Here are some of the ways in which women may be affected:

Mental health impact: Women who are subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment may experience anxiety, depression, and trauma.
They may be filled with feelings of shame, guilt, and powerlessness. This can have a negative impact on their mental health and overall well-being.

Career Impact: Quid pro quo harassment can have a significant impact on a woman’s career. If a woman is forced to comply with sexual demands in order to keep her job or get a promotion, she may be unable to advance in her career. This can result in feelings of frustration, rage, and powerlessness.

Economic Impact: Women who are subjected to quid pro quo harassment may be forced to resign or be fired if they refuse to comply with sexual demands. This can lead to financial insecurity and hardship.

Physical Impact: In some cases, quid pro quo harassment can escalate into physical violence or assault. This can result in physical injuries as well as long-term health consequences.

Also read: What is Hostile Work Environment?

In conclusion, quid pro quo form of sexual harassment can have serious consequences for women’s mental health, career prospects, financial stability, and physical safety. To create safe and respectful workplaces for women, it is critical to recognise and address this type of harassment.

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