HAMMOND- U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II 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. Sexual harassment in housing is
illegal, and the Department of Justice stands ready to investigate such
allegations and pursue enforcement actions where appropriate.
“Exploiting tenants or those in need of housing during a pandemic is
horrendous conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch, II. “Many
landlords and communities have come together to support those that are
in financial trouble and to that I applaud you. My message should be
clear, to those who which to use this pandemic to take advantage of and
sexually victimize your tenants or others seeking housing, you will be
“The Fair Housing Act authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice take
swift action against anyone who sexually harasses tenants,” said Eric
Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “Landlords,
property owners, and others who prey on vulnerable tenants during the
COVID-19 pandemic should be on notice. We will bring the full resources
of the United States Department of Justice to the fight against sexual
harassment in housing. We will defend the right of tenants and their
families to live peacefully and securely in their homes without the
added stress, pain, fear, and turmoil of dealing with sexual predators.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individuals who believe they may have been victims of discrimination
may also contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of
Indiana by reaching out to Assistant United States Attorney Deborah
Leonard at 260-310-8987.
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.