DOJ Increases Efforts to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Matthew D. Krueger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, is asking anyone who has witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker, or anyone with control over housing to report that conduct to the U.S. Department of Justice.
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 action where appropriate.
United States Attorney Krueger said, “Sexual harassment is a terrible violation of a person’s right to fair housing, and the COVID-19 Pandemic presents a new context for unscrupulous housing providers to commit such violations. Our office will continue to work closely with federal, state, and local partners to increase reporting of these violations, and bring federal resources to bear on landlords and others who violate the rights of some our most vulnerable residents.”
Launched in 2017, the Initiative has filed law suits across the country alleging a pattern and 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.
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 who believe they may have been victims of discrimination may also contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Wisconsin at (414) 297-1700.
Individuals may also file a complaint alleging harassment or discrimination in housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development through HUD’s website or by calling (800) 669-9777.