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Federal Law. Under federal law, "harassment" is defined to mean "a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person and serves no legitimate purpose." (18 U.S.C. § 1514(c)(1).)

California Law. California defines "harassment" as unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the petitioner. (Code Civ. Proc. § 527.6(b)(3).)

"Course of Conduct" is defined as a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose, including following or stalking an individual, making harassing telephone calls to an individual, or sending harassing correspondence to an individual by any means, including, but not limited to, the use of public or private mails, interoffice mail, facsimile, or computer email. (Code Civ. Proc. § 527.6(b)(1).)

"Credible threat of violence" is a knowing and willful statement or course of conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, and that serves no legitimate purpose. (Code Civ. Proc. § 527.6(b)(2).)

FEHA Requirements. Under California's Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which is enforced by the Civil Rights Department, an employer may also be responsible for the acts of non-employees with respect to sexual harassment of employees and other specified persons if the employer or its agents or supervisors knew or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. It makes associations potentially liable for the acts of non-employees with respect to harassment activity.

Anti-Harassment Training. Associations with five or more employees must ensure their supervisory employees undergo 2-hour training class and non-supervisory employees 1 hour of training. This must be done every two years.

Restraining Order. Persons subjected to harassment and threats of violence can seek a restraining order. For more information about restraining orders, see the California Courts Guide on Civil Harassment.

Investigating Harassment. Per regulations issued by HUD, associations are now required to investigate complaints of harassment made by members.

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

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