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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Can An Employee Have A Sexual Harassment Claim When Other Employees Receive Job Benefits For Granting Sexual Favors?

boss touches female employees butt while she's wide-eyed

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), sexual harassment is a form of unlawful sex discrimination. Courts have traditionally described two forms of sexual harassment that are prohibited by Title VII: hostile work environment sexual harassment and quid pro quo sexual harassment. Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when the victim is subjected to verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive work environment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when submission to or rejection of a supervisor’s sexual behavior, such as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or sexual demands, is used as the basis for an employment decision with respect to the victim. Read on to learn about an indirect case of sexual harassment.

Generally, the employee who is the direct target of quid pro quo sexual harassment is individual who is the victim of unlawful sexual harassment. However, there are circumstances where an employee who was not the direct target of quid pro quo sexual harassment may be able to establish that submission to unwelcome sexual advances was a condition for receiving job benefits based on evidence that a supervisor awarded job benefits to other employees who granted sexual favors. In other words, by coercing one or more female employees into submitting to sexual advances in return for job benefits, the supervisor implicitly conveys the message that sex is a condition for receiving job benefits and sexual favors are implicitly demanded as a “quid pro quo” in return for job benefits.

Employee Claims Sexual Favors Required For Promotion

The decision by the U.S. District Court for Delaware in Toscano v. Nimmo, 570 F.Supp. 1197 (D. Del. 1983) is instructive in showing how a message is implicitly conveyed that sexual favors are demanded as a quid pro quo in return for job benefits. In that case, Margaret Toscano (Toscano) brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against the Veterans Administration (VA) pursuant to Title VII. Toscano claimed that she was denied promotion based on the fact that the granting of sexual favors was a condition for promotion.

Toscano worked at VA Hospital in Delaware. While holding the position of Medical Administration Assistant, Toscano applied for promotion to the position of Chief Ward Administration Section (WAS). The employee ultimately promoted to the WAS position was a woman named Nelson. A male employee named Segovia made the decision to select Nelson. Toscano alleged that Segovia conditioned his selection of an individual for the WAS position on his receiving sexual favors. However, Toscano did not maintain that Segovia explicitly demanded sexual favors from her in return for promotion to the WAS position and she was denied promotion because of her refusal. Rather, Toscano claimed that Segovia’s sexual behavior in the workplace conveyed the message that granting sexual favors to Segovia was implicitly a condition for receiving promotion to the WAS position. 

In support of her sexual favoritism theory, Toscano alleged that Segovia frequently made sexual remarks and sexual advances towards women under his supervision. The sexual advances included making telephone calls to sexually proposition several female employees at home and making telephone calls to female employees at work to describe his sexual encounters with women under his supervision. Segovia’s workplace sexual behavior included having a sexual relationship with Nelson. On one occasion while at work, Segovia told Toscano about a sexual encounter that he had with Nelson and told Toscano that he was going to give Nelson the WAS position because she was “very good in making him feel good” and “she’s a real professional at it.” While their sexual relationship was taking place, Segovia selected Nelson for the WAS position.

Supervisor Demanded Sex As A Condition For Promotion

The VA moved for dismissal of Toscano’s quid pro quo sexual harassment claim. In doing so, the VA claimed that Toscano was not credible because she was a “woman scorned.” According to the VA, Toscano had a sexual relationship with Segovia and expected to marry him. After Segovia “jilted” her, Toscano only brought the Title VII lawsuit as “revenge.” In denying the VA’s motion for dismissal, the trial court concluded that the purported sexual relationship between Toscano and Segovia “never in fact occurred.”

Quid Pro Quo Case of Indirect Sexual Harassment

In denying the VA’s motion for dismissal, the trial court further found that “the granting of sexual favors was a condition” for receiving promotion to the WAS position. In support of its finding, the trial court pointed to evidence regarding Segovia’s sexual advances towards other women, his descriptions of his sexual encounters with other women under his supervision, his sexual relationship with Nelson, and his remark that Nelson was going to get the job because she was “very good at making him feel good.” From this evidence, the trial court concluded, “[f]or Segovia to have selected someone for the position based on the receipt of sexual favors would have been entirely consistent with this pattern of conduct.”

Free Consultation With Alachua County Sexual Harassment Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have almost twenty years of experience representing victims of sexual harassment. If you have been sexually harassed at work or have questions about sexual favoritism in the workplace, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Alachua County, Florida sexual harassment attorneys. Our employee rights law firm takes sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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