U.S. Attorney: Be Alert for Sexual Harassment in Housing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

(STL.News) – U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister 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.

“COVID-19 Pandemic has impacted the ability of many people to pay rent on time and has increased housing insecurity,” McAllister said. “Nationally, there have been reports of housing providers trying to exploit the crisis to sexually harass tenants.  Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, and we stand ready to investigate such allegations and pursue enforcement actions where appropriate.”

McAllister said his office 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 Justice Department’s 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 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.

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