Department of Justice committed to combatting sexual harassment in housing during COVID-19 crisis
HONOLULU, Hawaii – U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price is urging those who have experienced housing-related sexual harassment to report such conduct to the Department of Justice. While many landlords have accommodated their tenants in response to the economic hardships posed by the COVID-19 crisis, there have been reports of landlords responding to requests to defer rent payments with demands for sexual favors and other acts of unwelcome sexual conduct.
“Sexual harassment in housing is an often underreported, but egregious violation of the right to fair housing,” U.S. Attorney Price said. “Landlords and property managers who use their power to exploit those desperately in need of housing during a crisis, and engage in other predatory practices, will face the long arm of the law. The Attorney General has asked my fellow U.S. Attorneys and I to investigate reports of housing-related sexual harassment resulting from the current crisis, and my office is committed to uncovering such violations where they exist and bringing justice to victims by vigorously enforcing the law.”
The Department of Justice--through the U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Civil Rights Division, enforces the federal 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 Justice Department brings cases each year involving unlawful landlord conduct, including allegations of defendants exposing themselves sexually to current or prospective tenants, requesting sexual favors in exchange for reduced rents or making necessary repairs, making unrelenting and unwanted sexual advances to tenants, and evicting tenants who resisted their sexual overtures. More information about the Department of Justice’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is available on its webpage at https://www.justice.gov/crt/sexual-harassment-housing-initiative.
Anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, is encouraged to contact the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division by calling 1.844.380.6178 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals in Hawaii are also encouraged to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Hawaii by emailing USAHI.COVID19@usdoj.gov.
Ashley Mah Edwards