Federal Prosecutors Heighten Efforts to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing during the COVID-19 Pandemic
(STL.News) – The Department of Justice and federal prosecutors remain vigilant in investigating and prosecuting landlords and property managers who sexually harass tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic, warned U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. Anyone who has witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker, or anyone with control over housing should report that conduct to the Department of Justice.
As the pandemic continues to impact the ability of many people to pay rent on time, it has also increased worries over housing insecurity. The Department of Justice is investigating reports of housing providers responding to requests to defer rent payments with demands for sexual favors and other acts of unwelcome sexual conduct.
“Sadly, the COVID-19 public health crisis has financially impacted many of our friends and neighbors here in northeastern Oklahoma,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “While so many good Samaritans and landlords in our community have risen to the occasion to support those experiencing financial hardship, others have abused their authority by sexually harassing tenants. That is unacceptable. Rest assured that this U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold bad actors accountable for violating the Fair Housing laws. Victims should contact (844) 380-6178 or email [email protected] to report these crimes.”
“The Fair Housing Act authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice take swift action against anyone who sexually harasses tenants,” said Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “Landlords, property owners, and others who prey on vulnerable tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic should be on notice. We will bring the full resources of the United States Department of Justice to the fight against sexual harassment in housing. We will defend the right of tenants and their families to live peacefully and securely in their homes without the added stress, pain, fear, and turmoil of dealing with sexual predators.”
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The goal of the initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing.
Launched in 2017, the Initiative has filed lawsuits across the county alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing and recovered millions of dollars in damages for harassment victims. The Justice Department’s investigations frequently uncover sexual harassment that has been ongoing for years. Many individuals do not know that being sexually harassed by a housing provider can violate federal law or that the Department of Justice may be able to help.
The Department of Justice, through the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Act.