April 1, 2020

For Immediate Release

California Law Prevents Discrimination and Harassment in Shelters

Sacramento – The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has issued posters providing guidance for preventing discrimination and harassments in shelters.

The posters apply to all shelters, including emergency, overnight, and transitional shelters, covered under the Fair Employment and Housing Act and the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which apply to most housing accommodations in California.

DFEH enforces laws that protect California residents from illegal discrimination and harassment in shelters based on their actual or perceived:

  • Ancestry, national origin • Marital status
  • Citizenship* • Military and veteran Status
  • Disability, mental or physical • Primary language*
  • Familial status • Race, color
  • Gender identity, gender •expression • Sex, gender
  • Genetic information • Sexual orientation
  • Immigration status* • Source of income

“Discrimination and harassment can lead to housing insecurity, including homelessness,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish. “We issued this guidance so that shelter residents and providers understand that program participants deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity. This poster makes it clear that California law protects us during our most challenging times.”

The poster explains that sexual harassment is unlawful whether it occurs between shelter staff and residents, or between residents. Shelters have a duty to prevent sexual harassment from occurring between program participants. The poster clarifies that discrimination against or harassment of individuals in shelters based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, is unlawful. Shelters may not ask for information about residents’ anatomy, or for physical or medical evidence of their gender identity. The poster also clarifies that discrimination is unlawful based on immigration status, citizenship status, primary language, or national origin.

The posters will be mailed to shelters throughout California and to Continuum of Care (COC) Directors for each county, who coordinate homeless services. The posters will also be sent to Community Block Development Grant (CDBG) offices throughout California. CDBG offices fund many homeless shelters.


The California Civil Rights Department (CRD) is the state agency charged with enforcing California’s civil rights laws. CRD’s mission is to protect the people of California from unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, and state-funded programs and activities, and from hate violence and human trafficking. For more information, visit calcivilrights.ca.gov.

Communication Center: 800-884-1684 (voice), 800-700-2320 (TTY) or
California's Relay Service at 711 | contact.center@calcivilrights.ca.gov