Sexual Harassment in Housing & COVID 19 Crisis

U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
District of Delaware
The Hercules Building
1313 N. Market Street, Suite 400
P. O. Box 2046 (302) 573-6277
Wilmington, Delaware 19899-2046 FAX (302) 573-6220


Re: Sexual Harassment in Housing and the COVID-19 Crisis

Greetings,


In these unprecedented times and as the nation continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we see the need to re-affirm our commitment to eradicating sexual harassment in housing in our district. Sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, and others with control over housing may violate the federal Fair Housing Act. The Department of Justice, through the Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney’s Offices, remains unwavering in the enforcement of this vital statute.

As a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis, many in our communities have found themselves out of work, furloughed, or otherwise in dire financial straits. As a result, many have been forced to seek abatements or suspensions of their rent, or seek other accommodations during this time. While many landlords and housing providers have responded with understanding, there are reports that others have seen an opportunity to exploit the financially vulnerable through demands for sexual acts and other unwelcome sexual conduct. This appalling behavior is illegal and will not be tolerated.

The Fair Housing act 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 under the Fair Housing Act. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and the Department of Justice are the federal agencies that enforce the Fair Housing Act, with each playing an important role. Both agencies have launched a special initiative focused specifically on combatting sexual harassment in housing.

Recently, David C. Weiss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware, issued a press release announcing the office’s efforts to combat sexual harassment in housing. Please know that the Justice Department stands ready to investigate reports of sexual harassment in housing and to pursue enforcement actions where appropriate.

In your role, you may be in a position to hear directly from victims of this invidious conduct. We ask that you please contact us should you have any questions or receive any reports of sexual harassment in housing, and that you also refer victims to file a complaint with HUD. We also encourage you to report sexual harassment in housing to the Civil Rights Division by calling (844) 380-6178 or emailing fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

Launched in 2017, 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. For more information, please visit the Initiative’s webpage. The Initiative has developed a number of resources and outreach materials that you are welcome to use, including information sheets for advocates, flyers in 13 languages, palm cards, and a partnership toolkit. We have also developed a PSA on sexual harassment in housing, which we encourage you to share on social media, and a longer video about Working with DOJ to Stop Sexual Harassment in Housing.

Thank you for your attention to this important issue. You, your organization, and the community you serve, are in our thoughts during this difficult time.

Sincerely,
DAVID C. WEISS
United States Attorney
By: /s/ Derick D. Dailey
Derick D. Dailey
Assistant United States Attorney

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