In California, sexual harassment in employment and housing is forbidden under provisions of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), specifically Government Code section 12940. Federal law also prohibits certain types of discrimination and harassment, specifically Title VII.
Under FEHA harassment is illegal when because of sex or a person’s gender. This includes all harassment that is based on a desire to gratify, stimulate or fulfill romantic or sexual urges, harassment in the form of mistreatment becuase of a person’s gender, harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, and harassment based on sexual orientation.
Fair Employment and Housing Commission regulations define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes harassment of a person who is the same sex as the harasser. In California sexual or gender harassment may include, but is not limited to:
- Unwanted sexual advances;
- Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors;
- Making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances;
- Visual conduct, e.g., leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of sexually suggestive objects or pictures, cartoons or posters;
- Verbal conduct, e.g., making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs and jokes;
- Verbal sexual advances or propositions;
- Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations;
- Harassment based on a person’s gender, such as targeting a person for offensive or hostile treatment because she is a woman;
- Physical conduct, such as touching, assault, impeding or blocking movements.