Hostile Work Environment vs. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

by Joseph C. Maya on Feb. 20, 2024

Employment 

Summary: As an employment law attorney I can get too accustomed to the legal jargon.  One question frequently asked by prospective clients is “what is the difference between hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment?”  While both types of employment discrimination are illegal and actionable, they can take very different forms.

Perhaps the most succinct explanation of the two causes of action comes from a four-year old Connecticut Appellate Court case: Quid pro quo sexual harassment, as its name suggests, conditions employment on the return of sexual favors; hostile environment sexual harassment is conduct that “has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

There is a related variant, retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment, that also gives rise to a cause of action but which must be separately pleaded and proven.  That is why a victim of sexual harassment or retaliation should consult with an experienced employment law litigator before framing the particular allegations of a lawsuit.  At trial, you will be held to the allegations of your Complaint and limited to presenting only evidence in support of your claims.  Thus, if you plead quid pro quo, you may not be able to prove hostile work environment, or vice versa.


Maya Murphy P.C. has proudly been included in the 2024 Edition of Best Law Firms®, ranked among the top firms in the nation. In addition, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been selected to The Best Lawyers in America® 2024 for his work in Employment Law and Education Law in Connecticut. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is awarded to firms and attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the industry, and is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Our firm in Westport, Connecticut serves clients with legal assistance all over the state, including the towns of: Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Bethel, Branford, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Cheshire, Danbury, Darien, Derby, East Haven, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Middlebury, Milford, Monroe, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New Fairfield, New Haven, Newton, North Branford, North Haven, Norwalk, Orange, Oxford, Prospect, Redding, Ridgefield, Seymour, Shelton, Sherman, Southbury, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Wallingford, Waterbury, West Haven, Weston, Westport, Wilton, and Woodbridge. In addition to assisting clients in Connecticut, our firm handles education law and employment law matters in New York as well. 

If you have any questions about employment law or education law in Connecticut, or would like to speak to an attorney about a legal matter, please contact Joseph C. Maya and the other experienced attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@Mayalaw.com to schedule a free initial consultation today.

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