California Government Code Section 12940 prohibits discrimination in the terms or conditions of employment on the basis of sex, and prohibits harassment based upon sex or sexual orientation. Furthermore, the law requires employers to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent harassment from occurring in the workplace.

The California Supreme Court has defined harassment as conduct that is outside the scope of necessary job performance, conduct presumably engaged in for personal gratification, because of meanness or bigotry, or for other person motives. Harassment can be categorized into verbal harassment, physical harassment, or visual harassment. Verbal harassment consists of but is not limited to derogatory comments, slurs, sexual comments and jokes. Physical harassment is defined as unwanted touching, rubbing against someone, assault and physical interference with one’s movement or work. Visual harassment includes derogatory cartoons, drawings, or posters, and lewd gestures. Additionally, workplace harassment can involve violence or threats of violence.


Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome verbal or physical conduct directed at an employee because of her sex. The sexual harassment can be by a man against a woman or a woman against a man. Sexual harassment can take two forms: hostile work environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Quid pro quo” sexual harassment, meaning “this for that”, the expectation that you will provide a colleague or manager with sexual gratification in exchange for job security. For example, a supervisors’ requests for sexual favors are linked to the grant or denial of job benefits, such a getting or retaining a job, or receiving a favorable performance review or promotion. This is an especially serious situation that can expose both individual and corporate defendant to very heavy liability. In these types of cases the form of sexual advance or proposition by a supervisor can be an express or implied threat. In these types of cases, the employer can be held liable for the supervisor’s or colleague’s harassment.

“Hostile environment” sexual harassment cases may involve various forms of verbal and physical conduct, of both a sexual or non-sexual nature, which have the purpose of creating a hostile or offensive working environment. Unlike quid pro pro claims, there is no requirement that the employee suffer loss of tangible job benefits or actual injury in order to state a hostile work environment claim. Also, hostile work environment claims can be brought against supervisors, coworkers, or even non-employees under certain circumstances.

Federal and state laws differ on whether harassment based on sexual orientation is unlawful. Under California’s law, harassment based on sexual orientation is expressly prohibited. The Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) imposes two standards of liability for sexual orientation harassment depending on whether the harasser is the victim’s supervisor or a nonsupervisory colleague. On the other hand, federal law (Title VII) does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.


Tumber Law Firm is based in San Francisco, California. Our attorneys represent clients in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Monterey, Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento, Solano, Marin, and Sonoma Counties. Tumber Law Firm protects clients from retaliation, discrimination, and harassment involving dismissal, demotion, or denial of accommodation based on age, race, sex, religion, color, sexual orientation, marital status, association, physical or mental disability, or other legally protected classifications. Additionally we represent employees if they have not been paid the proper wages including overtime or minimum wage, or those not given the proper meal and rest breaks. If you believe that your rights have been violated, CONTACT US to setup your free consultation to discuss this matter. We take cases on a contingency basis and collect no attorney fees unless we win your case.