Discrimination and harassment resulting from COVID-19 pandemic

(STL.News) – United States Attorney Josh J. Minkler is asking anyone who has witnessed or experienced harassment or discrimination as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to report such allegations to the Civil Rights Coordinator in his office, or to the Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The COVID-19 pandemic and public health emergency has impacted many vulnerable community members, including persons with disabilities, persons with limited English proficiency, service members, and other persons protected by our nation’s civil rights laws because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.  COVID-19 has particularly impacted individuals in their ability to pay their rent, increasing housing insecurity.  It is a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) for housing providers, including landlords, and managers, to exploit this crisis by sexually harassing tenants in exchange for rent or other housing needs.

“Enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws is one of the top priorities in my office.” said Minkler.  “We must remain vigilant and work together in this area, especially during this public health crisis.  COVID-19 has affected all races, religions, ethnicities, and those with disabilities.  Please help us address any suspect discrimination, as we enforce the laws that prohibit such behavior.”

The Department of Justice has filed lawsuits across the country where a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing is alleged. 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 Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country.  The initiative’s goal is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing.