U.S. Attorney’s Office Hosts Roundtable To Combat Sexual Harassment In Housing
Greensboro, NC – On April 30, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division hosted a roundtable for community organizations to discuss the problem of sexual harassment in housing, U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin announced. The event included state and local fair housing agencies, a representative from Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Fair Housing Project, and numerous community organizations.
“A tenant should be able to feel safe in her own home.” U.S. Attorney Martin said. “Landlords and others who abuse a position of power to commit sexual harassment violate a person’s right to fair housing. Attacking exploitation is a priority of our office, and we are dedicated to uncovering fair housing violations and aggressively pursuing those individuals who violate 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.
In October 2017, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing. In April 2018, the Justice Department announced the nationwide rollout of that initiative, including three major components: a new joint Task Force with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to combat sexual harassment in housing, an outreach toolkit to leverage the Department’s nationwide network of U.S. Attorney’s Offices, and a public awareness campaign, including the launch of a national Public Service Announcement.
The Justice Department’s initiative seeks to identify barriers to reporting sexual harassment in housing, increase awareness of the Justice Department’s 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.
Our office is working closely with the Civil Rights Division to spread the word here in the Middle District of North Carolina about options to help victims experiencing sexual harassment or who experienced sexual harassment in housing in the past. Roundtable discussions like the one that U.S. Attorney Martin hosted today are one way to increase awareness and build strong partnerships in the community to combat this problem together. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cassie Crawford is leading the Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative in the district.
Our community organizations, such as local law enforcement, legal aid offices, fair housing organizations, shelters, and transitional housing providers can identify the misconduct and recommend that victims report sexual harassment to the Civil Rights Division, using the contact information below. Local police departments or legal aid offices may be able to help victims, if the behavior is a crime or if there is an imminent eviction. Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Fair Housing Project Hotline is 1-855-797-3247.
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. Since launching the initiative, the Justice Department has filed nine lawsuits alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing. The Justice Department has filed or settled 14 sexual harassment cases since January 2017, and has recovered over $2.2 million for victims of sexual harassment in housing.
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 Department encourages anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, to contact the Division by calling 1-844-380-6178 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals can also report sexual harassment and other forms of housing discrimination by e-mailing the U.S. Attorney’s Office at USANCM.CivilRights@usdoj.gov.
More information about the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces can be found at http://www.justice.gov/crt.