Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Definition:

Workplace harassment which conditions employment or promotion on sexual favors.

Related Terms: Hostile Work Environment, Sexual Harassment

"The gravamen of a quid pro quo sexual harassment claim is that tangible job benefits are conditioned on an employee's submission to conduct of a sexual nature and that adverse job consequences result from the employee's refusal to submit to the conduct."

These were the words used by Justice Holloway of the United States Court of Appeals in Hicks v Gates Rubber.

In Bryson v Chicago State University, Madam Justice Diane Wood of the United States Court of Appeals omitted the word sexual but nonetheless wrote (and referring to Catherine McKinnon's work, op. cit.):

"Quid pro quo harassment occurs in situations where submission to sexual demands is made a condition of tangible employment benefits."

Eugene Scalia wrote for the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy:

"Courts ... recognize two forms of sexual harassment (in employment): quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment conditions employment (or promotion) on sexual favors. Hostile work environment or environmental harassment comprises discriminatory comments, advances, touching, and the like that make the workplace hostile or abusive."

In Foisy v Bell Canada, Justice Mailhot of the Quebec Superior Court adopted these words:

"These cases involve only one form of sexual harassment -- what Catharine MacKinnon ... calls the quid pro quo. By this, she means that job benefits are conditioned on an exchange of sex or physical contact. Refusal leads to discharge or discipline or negative recommendations for promotion."


  • Bryson v. Chicago State University, 96 F. 3d 912 (1996)
  • Foisy c. Bell Canada, 18 D.L.R. (4th) 222 (1984, QCSC), at ¶57. Referring to MacKinnon, Catherine, Sexual Harassment of Working Women (Toronto: Yale University Press, 1979).
  • Hicks v Gates Rubber, 833 F. 2d 1406 (1987)
  • Scalia, E., The Strange Career of Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment, 21 Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol'y 307 (1998).

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