U.S. Attorney’s Office Hosts Roundtable Discussion on Sexual Harassment in Housing
LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California hosted a roundtable discussion yesterday on Sexual Harassment in Housing for community organizations, U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna announced.
The event included local legal services offices, fair housing organizations, shelters and transitional housing providers. Each organization was invited because they often work with the Central District of California’s most vulnerable populations, who could also become victims of sexual harassment in housing.
The Department of Justice, through the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Civil Rights Division, 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. Sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, and others with power over housing often affects the most vulnerable populations – single parents, individuals who have financial difficulties, and people who have suffered sexual violence in their past. These individuals often do not know where to turn for help.
“Sexual harassment in housing is often underreported, but it is an egregious violation of a person’s right to fair housing,” U.S. Attorney Hanna said. “Landlords and property managers using the power they have over tenants to extort sexual favors, or even commit assaults, is intolerable. My Office is dedicated to uncovering such violations where they exist and vigorously enforcing the law.”
In October 2017, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced the Sexual Harassment Initiative, an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing. The Justice Department’s initiative seeks to identify barriers to reporting sexual harassment in housing, increase awareness of its enforcement efforts – both among survivors and those they may report to – and collaborate with federal, state, and local partners to increase reporting and help survivors quickly and easily connect with federal resources.
The Justice Department is hosting a series of roundtable discussions on this topic around the country and this was the first one on the West Coast. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California is collaborating with the Civil Rights Division to spread the word about options to help individuals experiencing sexual harassment within the seven districts that comprise the Central District of California: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura counties. Community organizations, such as legal services offices, fair housing organizations, shelters and transitional housing providers, can identify the misconduct and recommend that individuals report sexual harassment to the Justice Department.
The Justice Department brings cases each year involving egregious conduct, including allegations that defendants have exposed themselves sexually to current or prospective tenants, requested sexual favors in exchange for reduced rents or making necessary repairs, made unrelenting and unwanted sexual advances to tenants, and evicted tenants who resisted their sexual overtures.
In 2017, the Justice Department recovered for harassment victims more than $1 million in damages. Many instances of sexual harassment in housing continue to go unreported. The Justice Department’s investigations frequently uncover sexual harassment that has been ongoing for years or decades and identify numerous victims who never reported the conduct to federal authorities.
The Justice 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 file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Division’s Civil Rights Section.