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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Florida

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 12, 2018

U.S. Attorney's Office Hosts Roundtable On Sexual Harassment In Housing

Tampa, FL - The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida (MDFL) and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division hosted a roundtable today for community organizations to discuss the problem of sexual harassment in housing, U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced. More than 50 community partners, including local law enforcement agencies, legal aid offices, fair housing organizations, domestic violence centers, housing authorities, and other housing providers from across the MDFL attended. Participants included organizations that often work with vulnerable populations who are most likely to become the victims of sexual harassment in housing.

The Department of Justice, through the various U.S. Attorneys’ 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. Sexual harassment in housing may appear in many forms, including allegations involving individuals who sexually expose themselves to current or prospective tenants, request sexual favors in exchange for reduced rents or making necessary repairs, make unrelenting and unwanted sexual advances to tenants, and evict tenants who resist their sexual overtures.

“Fair housing is a protected right,” said U.S. Attorney Chapa Lopez. “No one should ever have to surrender their dignity in exchange for a place to live. Sexual harassment, intimidation, and the abuse of power and position by landlords, property managers, or their employees should never be used as keys of extortion. Our office is committed to working with our community partners to expose such violations and prosecute them vigorously.”

In October 2017, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced the Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative, an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing. On April 12, 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the nationwide expansion of that initiative and the formation of a joint task force with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address this issue. The Justice Department’s initiative seeks to identify barriers to reporting sexual harassment in housing, increase awareness of the Justice Department's enforcement efforts among survivors and responsible agencies, and collaborate with federal, state, and local partners to increase reporting, and connect survivors with federal resources.

Through roundtable discussions like those held today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is working closely with the Civil Rights Division to spread information to local communities about fair housing laws and resources available to victims of sexual harassment in housing. During the meetings, various entities exchange ideas on how to better detect, report, and enforce violations. In addition, various strategies are discussed on how to better share critical resources and strengthen interdisciplinary partnerships throughout central Florida.

Many instances of sexual harassment in housing continue to go unreported. Not only should victims of sexual harassment be aware of the Justice Department’s enforcement efforts, but a concerted effort must be made by the public at-large to encourage others to become involved and report acts of misconduct. In addition to the local authorities, victims should report violations to the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The Department encourages anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, to contact them by calling 1-(844) 380-6178 or emailing fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

In support of the Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative, U.S. Attorney Chapa Lopez has produced Public Service Announcements (PSAs) specifically designed to raise awareness, and make it easier for victims all over the country to find resources and report harassment. (See below to download MDFL PSAs).

Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of a civil rights violation may also file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney's Office.

MDFL Civil Rights Unit

Phone: (813) 274-6095

Email: USAFLM.civil.rights@usdoj.gov

www.justice.gov/usao-mdfl/civil-rights

Topic(s): 
Civil Rights
Community Outreach
Component(s): 
Updated July 12, 2018