Federal law enforcement officials are looking to bring awareness to a common form of sexual harassment that doesn’t get as much attention as workplace impropriety.
The U.S. Attorney’s office is spreading the word that reports of harassment in relation to rental housing can be make anonymously, directly to the U.S. Justice Department.
“Usually, what we’ve been seeing is discussion about sexual harassment in employment or the workplace, but what is not being discussed is sexual harassment in housing,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said.
“This is a real, nationwide problem where you’ll have somebody that might be landlord or maintenance worker… These people will say things like ‘I’ll let you stay here’ or ‘I’ll make those repairs if you do this.’ We wanted to have a dialogue about that with people in the community … to let them know that is a lawsuit under federal law.”
The Justice Department announced the initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing in October 2017 and Schneider led a roundtable discussion this week on the impacts of sexual harassment toward tenants and ways to combat it.
“What we usually find is this is a pattern of activity. If you don’t want to be kicked out of your apartment, you can still report it to the Justice Department. We can keep that anonymous, and we will do an investigation,” Schneider said.
The department is kicking off an informational campaign by distributing flyers with a phone number, letting victims know they have options, and can come forward.
“Trying to get victims to come forward is not easy,” Schneider said. “We’re trying to let people know we want to be there for you.
“… These people are victims of crime, so they might not want to report it, especially if their landlord says ‘I need you to do a sexual favor for me.’ These people have the keys to their houses, the keys to their apartments, and they could get kicked out.
Victims of sexual harassment can call the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 844-380-6378 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also call the local civil rights hotline at 313-226-9151 or email@example.com.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.