As the country watches the scandal surrounding U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh build over alleged sexual improprieties with multiple women, it can be tempting to think that this type of behavior is restricted to isolated incidents. Unfortunately, sexual harassment has been pernicious, particularly in the workplace since time immemorial. The most pernicious form of this behavior is one that Kavanaugh never allegedly engaged in. But it is much more common between a boss and employee than it is between classmates—the so-called quid pro quo sexual harassment.
What Is Quid Pro Quo?
While sexual harassment can exist if one or more people simply indulge in sexually themed teasing or inappropriate gestures, this is referred to as ‘environmental’ harassment. Quid pro quo, however, is harassment that is almost always carried out between two people, with one in a subordinate position to the other. The classic scenario is where a boss asks for sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or other job advancement, or sometimes in return for not firing the employee. Consequently, if someone refuses, they are often terminated or made to face other negative employment action.
It Doesn’t Happen Only To Women
The most recent relevant case on point also reminds the average person of a small but important detail. Women are not the only victims of such behavior. A case in the Tenth Circuit called Jones v. Needham (2017) involved a man who was terminated for refusing to engage in sexual behavior with his female boss. His state tort claims were denied, but the sexual harassment case was allowed to proceed. Jones is an example of the prototypical fact pattern in this type of case.
Regardless of gender, quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when someone is asked to engage in sexual behavior at work in a manner that violates Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination.
If you believe you have been the victim of a sexual overture at work, you must first exhaust all possible administrative remedies before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) will take up your case. This can include mediation, internal remedies, and any other potential procedure that can settle your case without taking it to trial.
The rationale is that trials can be long and expensive, to say nothing of traumatic for the plaintiff. Current law permits tactics in court that many plaintiffs find painful to experience, but at the same time, the tiny details of alleged sexual harassments must be explored in depth to ensure that something unlawful actually took place, as opposed to something merely unwelcome.
If administrative remedies are unsuccessful in settling your case, however, you can bring it to court. The EEOC or SCHAC may take up your case, but it is unlikely. They receive so many in any given year that they necessarily take very few. If the agency declines to prosecute your case, this does not mean it is unwinnable. You will generally be given what the EEOC calls a Notice of Right to Sue, which allows you to bring a lawsuit in a South Carolina civil court, and from there, the matter needs to be handled by an experienced attorney.
Get Experienced Legal Assistance Today
Sexual harassment is among the most dehumanizing experiences one can go through, and if it has happened to you, you need a knowledgeable attorney to help guide you through what can be a scary process. Attorney A. Christopher Potts is here to fight for you. Contact our Charleston firm today to schedule a consultation.