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Quid pro quo harassment: Trading sex for job security

Has your boss hinted (or outright stated) that if you want to get a little something, like a permanent position or a promotion, that you need to give a little something, like your sexual favors?

If so, that's called "quid pro quo" harassment, and it's illegal.

Of course, just because it's illegal doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't happen. It probably happens far more often than people realize.

For example, the news of a major quid pro quo scandal at one of the nation's largest jewelry companies was just made public in the wake of declarations by almost 250 women and men who claim that the company's senior male executives treated the company's young saleswomen as members of their "private harems."

A class-action suit has been filed against Sterling Jewelers and its parent company, Signet Jewelers, and affects more than 69,000 current and former female employees of Sterling. Sterling is the company behind such well-known jewelry stores as Kay's and Jared's.

While the class action suit focuses on gender-based pay and promotion discrimination, the documents involved in the case make it clear that sexual harassment was so much the norm that company employees developed a pet phrase for it. They called it "going to the big stage" when a manager demanded sex from a female worker in exchange for a better position within the company. There's also allegations that top male managers used to routinely send "scouting parties" to the stores to find attractive women to target.

While the company's attorneys say that the claims of sexual harassment are irrelevant to the wage and promotion discrimination, that seems unlikely. One of the most important elements of a quid pro quo case is that the alleged harasser makes certain job benefits conditional based on the whether or not the targeted employee is willing to accept the harassment.

If you've been a victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment and your life has been negatively affected as a result, you may be eligible to recover for your lost wages, lost benefits, missed career opportunities, emotional distress and (in some cases) punitive damages, which are designed solely to punish this kind of behavior and discourage others from trying the same thing. Talk to an attorney as soon as possible about your experiences in order to protect your rights.

Source: FindLaw, "What is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?," accessed March 03, 2017

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