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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Increases Efforts to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia

            WASHINGTON – As part of a national effort directed by U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Timothy J. Shea 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 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 actions where appropriate.

            “While facing both a threat to public health and a threat to economic security, District of Columbia residents need, more than ever, to feel safe in the place they call home.  We will not tolerate those who seek to exploit tenants at a time when they may be most financially vulnerable,” said U.S. Attorney Shea.  “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will work closely with our local and federal partners to identify incidents of sexual harassment in housing and to bring predators to justice.”

            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. The goal of the Initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or others who have control over housing.

            Launched in 2017, the Initiative has led to the filing of lawsuits across the county alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing and the recovery of 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

            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.

Updated May 5, 2020

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 20-065