Everyone is entitled to a workplace free of harassment, and yet it persists. But harassment can take many different forms, namely falling into one of two categories – quid pro quo harassment or a hostile work environment – which have different requirements. Understanding the difference can help you choose what course to take, so you can make it stop.
Quid pro quo
Quid pro quo harassment requires an exchange or at least a demand of exchanging one thing for another. Although it often involves an exchange of a sexual nature, it doesn’t have to. The key to quid pro quo harassment is that someone with authority makes an improper demand, penalizing the employee if they do not comply.
The harasser uses their authority over the employee’s hiring, firing, promotion, pay, shift assignments or any other aspect of their employment to get what they want. As such, quid pro quo harassment is usually perpetrated by owners, managers, human resources personnel or other individuals in a supervisory capacity.
Hostile work environment
Unlike quid pro quo harassment, hostile work environment is not so limited. It can be committed by anyone in the workplace, regardless of their authority or relationship to the victim. Rather than a single act, it tends to be a pattern of behavior that develops over time. It can include offensive jokes, name-calling, intimidation, ridicule and many other actions.
The important thing is that the conduct is significant enough, and continues long enough, that a reasonable person would consider the work environment to have become abusive in some fashion. It is the employer’s responsibility to correct the situation, once you make them aware of it.
As a victim of workplace harassment, you’re entitled to help – the law is on your side. Don’t hesitate to contact an attorney who is experienced in harassment in all its forms. They can assist you in stopping the conduct and holding those responsible accountable.