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A New York State Trial Judge’s Secretary Alleges ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Sexual Harassment that Went on For Years

Everyone in New York has the right to earn a living and to do their jobs without their workplace fates controlled by what they will or won’t do sexually for their bosses. If you’ve had your pay, your rank, your hours, your assignments, or your continued employment made conditional on the provision of something sexual, then that very possibly is illegal sexual harassment and you may be entitled to recover substantial compensation as a result. To find out the range of legal options that exist for you, reach out to a knowledgeable New York sexual harassment lawyer right away.

“Quid pro quo” sexual harassment, at its center, is rooted in power dynamics. One person, recognizing that he/she holds a position of great power and influence generally or, at least, greater power and influence than another worker, wields that influence (or threatens to use it) to extract sex from the less-powerful party. That less-powerful person perhaps acquiesces because they fear the economic ramifications of losing their job and/or being “blackballed” from getting another job. In other words, they acquiesce because they feel powerless.

The allegations made in a recent sexual harassment complaint from upstate make for a classic example of “quid pro quo” harassment. According to the alleged victim, who was a secretary for a trial court judge, the harassment began almost as soon as the judge took office, and went on for years.


According to the complaint, the judge laid out early on that part of the secretary’s job was alleviating his stress. Specifically, “stress relief” meant the secretary providing the judge with oral sexual favors on demand and the judge allegedly told the secretary that, if she wanted to keep her job, she’d comply with the judge’s demands for “stress relief.”

During the first year, with the secretary going through a divorce, the judge allegedly told her that, if she wanted to retain custody of her minor son, she would assist the judge with “relieving his stress.” In the second and third years, the judge’s demands for “stress relief” allegedly increased, occurring on at least 50 occasions.

What, Exactly, Is ‘Quid Pro Quo’ Harassment?

Keep in mind that, at this point, the assertions are mere allegations and nothing has been proven so far. However, if the secretary succeeds in proving the things she alleged in her complaint, hers would very possibly be a relatively clear-cut case of “quid pro quo” sexual harassment.

In New York, “quid pro quo” sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor or other person in a position of authority or power proposes an exchange of some form of sex for some type of employment action.

There are a wide variety of employment actions that can be exchanged for sex. It could be continued employment, changes in your pay, a promotion/demotion, a change of shifts or assignments, or a certain outcome on a performance review.

Also bear in mind that the employment action in a “quid pro quo” harassment scenario can be either a positive or negative action. (In other words, both “sleep with me or else you’ll lose your job” and “agree to date me and I’ll get you that promotion” are both potential examples of “quid pro quo” harassment.)

Furthermore, be aware that the proposal (or threat) of a “quid pro quo” exchange does not have to be expressed. This kind of sexual harassment can involve an explicit threat or comment, or it may be predicated solely upon an implication.

There are important differences between “quid pro quo” harassment and “hostile work environment” harassment cases. In a “hostile work environment” claim filed under the New York State Human Rights Law, you will generally have to prove that the harassment you endured was extreme (“severe”) or happened with considerable frequency (“pervasive.”) (New York City no long imposes an obligation on hostile work environment plaintiffs to prove that their harassment was severe or pervasive.)

Neither New York State nor New York City requires that a “quid pro quo” plaintiff prove that her harassment was severe or pervasive. Even just a single instance of “sleep with me or lose your job,” whether expressed or implied, is potentially actionable.

We all want our job statuses to depend on how we perform at work without our clothes on, not on what we’re willing (or unwilling) to do sexually for our bosses. If you have been asked to exchange sex for some job benefit (or withholding some adverse employment action,) then that may well be “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, which is against the law. Get in touch with the knowledgeable New York sexual harassment attorneys at Phillips & Associates today. Contact us online or by calling (866) 229-9441 to set up a free and confidential consultation. We’ve helped countless sexual harassment victims and we’re ready to get to work for you.

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