Department of Justice combats sexual harassment in housing during COVID-19 pandemic
U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss is requesting anyone who has witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker or anyone with control over housing report that conduct to federal or state law enforcement officials, his office announced May 20.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the ability of many people to pay rent on time and has increased housing insecurity. The Department of Justice has heard reports of housing providers trying to exploit the crisis to sexually harass tenants. Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, and the Department of Justice stands ready to investigate such allegations and pursue enforcement actions where appropriate.
“Delawareans are facing very difficult times due to the current pandemic and any attempt to take advantage of them or this crisis to sexually harass tenants is illegal, abhorrent and will not be tolerated,” said Weiss. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will work closely with state and local partners to identify incidents of sexual harassment in housing.”
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. 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 encourages anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, to contact the Civil Rights Division by calling 844-380-6178 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individuals may also file a complaint alleging harassment or discrimination in housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development through HUD’s website — bit.ly/2Ts8ouC — or by calling 800-669-9777.