U.S. Attorney’s Office Committed to Investigating Predatory Housing Practices Related to COVID-19 Pandemic
(STL.News) – Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country to investigate reports of housing-related sexual harassment resulting from the current COVID-19 pandemic.
As the country adopts drastic measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, many Americans have lost their jobs and many more have seen their wages curtailed. These losses have forced some to seek abatements or suspensions of their rent. Although many landlords have responded with understanding, the Attorney General reports that other landlords have responded to requests for accommodations with demands for sexual favors and other acts of unwelcome sexual conduct. Such behavior is illegal under 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. Sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, and others with power over housing often impacts society’s most vulnerable populations.
“For landlords or property managers to try to use the power they have over tenants in these unprecedented times to extort sexual favors, or even commit assaults, is beyond reprehensible,” said U.S. Attorney Parsons. “No person should have to tolerate unwanted sexual advances in order to keep a roof over his or her head. Our office is dedicated to uncovering such violations wherever they exist and vigorously enforcing the law.”
The Attorney General’s directive reaffirms the Department of Justice’s commitment to the Sexual harassment Initiative launched in October 2017. The initiative seeks to identify barriers to reporting sexual harassment in housing, increase awareness of its enforcement efforts, and collaborate with federal, state, and local partners to increase reporting and help survivors quickly and easily connect with federal resources.