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Press Release

DOJ Increases Efforts to Combat Sexual Harrassment in Housing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Oklahoma

U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing is asking anyone who has witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker, or anyone with control over housing to report that conduct to the Department of Justice.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted the ability of many people to pay rent on time and has increased housing insecurity.  The Department of Justice has heard reports of housing providers trying to exploit the crisis to sexually harass tenants in some states.  Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, and the Department of Justice stands ready to investigate such allegations and pursue enforcement actions where appropriate.

"Our office is committed to working with all levels of law enforcement to bring to justice any individual so evil-minded as to sexually harass those in desperate need of housing during this pandemic," said U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Downing.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma will work closely with state and local partners to identify incidents of sexual harassment in housing.

The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country.  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.

Launched in 2017, the Initiative has filed lawsuits across the county alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing and recovered millions of dollars in damages for harassment victims.  The Justice Department’s investigations frequently uncover sexual harassment that has been ongoing for years.  Many individuals do not know that being sexually harassed by a housing provider can violate federal law or that the Department of Justice may be able to help.

The Department of Justice, through the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, enforces the 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 Department encourages anyone who has experienced sexual harassment in housing, or knows someone who has, to contact the Civil Rights Division by calling (844) 380-6178 or emailing  Individuals may also file a complaint alleging harassment or discrimination in housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development through HUD’s website or by calling (800) 669-9777.

Individuals who believe they may have been victims of discrimination may also contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma by calling (405) 553-8700.

Updated May 5, 2020