U.S. Attorney's Office hosts roundtable on sexual harassment in housing
HELENA – The U.S. Attorney’s Office 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 Kurt G. Alme announced.
The event, held at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, included legal aid offices, fair housing organizations, and shelters and transitional housing providers. Those organizations were invited because they often work with vulnerable populations who are most likely to become victims of sexual harassment in housing.
“Sexual harassment in housing is an egregious violation of a person’s right to fair housing,” U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said. “Landlords using the power they have over tenants to extort sexual favors, or even commit assaults, is intolerable. Our office is dedicated to uncovering such violations where they exist and 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.
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, then-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 initiative seeks to identify barriers to reporting sexual harassment in housing, increase awareness of the 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.
In the first year of the initiative’s launch, the Justice Department has opened 34 new sexual harassment matters, which is more than any previous year and nearly five times the number of matters opened in the prior year. In addition, the department has filed six lawsuits in alleged sexual harassment in housing cases, which is more than the department has filed in any previous year.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is working closely with the Civil Rights Division to spread the word in Montana 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 Alme hosted today are one way to increase awareness and build strong partnerships in the community to combat this problem together.
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 and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. In addition, 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.
While most people are familiar with the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, harassment also occurs in housing, and the Fair Housing Act prohibits it. 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.
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 Civil Rights Division by calling 1 (844) 380-6178 or emailing email@example.com. For more information, visit https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-reports-major-increases-victim-reporting-and-number-lawsuits-filed-one.
Individuals who believe they may have been victims of discrimination may also file a complaint with the U.S. Attorney’s Office at United States Attorney’s Office, 2601 Second Avenue N., Suite 3200, Billings, MT 59101 c/o AUSA Brendan McCarthy, or contact AUSA McCarthy by phone – 406-247-4656 or email – firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals also my contact the FBI.