Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, today emphasized his Office’s commitment to fighting sexual harassment in housing during the current pandemic. In a letter sent to housing advocacy groups and other community organizations, Mr. Donoghue invited their assistance in identifying anyone who has witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker or anyone with control over housing.
Mr. Donoghue makes this announcement in response to reports of landlords who have responded to requests to defer rent payments 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, familiar status, national origin and disability. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by the Fair Housing Act.
“Tenants who find themselves unemployed and in dire financial straits due to the COVID-19 crisis are protected from discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. No tenant should ever be expected to provide sexual favors in order to keep a roof over their head,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue. “We will use all available enforcement tools to protect tenants from such unscrupulous and predatory conduct.”
In coordination with the Attorney General, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country are investigating reports of housing-related sexual harassment resulting from the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Attorney General has reaffirmed the commitment that the Department of Justice made when it launched its Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative in October 2017. The goal of the Initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing.
Anyone who is aware of sexual harassment in housing on Long Island, Brooklyn, Queens or Staten Island is requested to contact this office, by email to USANYE-CivilRights@usa.doj.gov or by calling this office at 718-254-7000.