BISMARCK – United States Attorney Drew Wrigley 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 and public health emergency 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 individuals with financial challenges, including by sexual misconduct. Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, and the Department of Justice stands ready to investigate such allegations and pursue enforcement actions where appropriate.
“While most landlords and housing providers have responded to the hardships of the COVID-19 crisis with understanding, others may attempt to exploit the financially vulnerable,” said United States Attorney Drew Wrigley. “Such behavior is as illegal as it is appalling, and the United States Attorney’s office stands ready to investigate complaints of sexual harassment in housing, and we will deploy all available enforcement tools.”
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with United States Attorney’s Offices. The Justice Department 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 United States Attorney’s Offices, enforces the Fair Housing Act (FHA), 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.
Discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, and other protected classes is unlawful under several federal laws, in addition to the FHA, and may result in criminal or civil liability. Discrimination can arise in many different contexts in addition to housing, including education, employment, health and safety, and places of public accommodation.
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 United States Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota by calling Assistant United States Attorneys Tara Vavrosky Iversen or Melissa H. Burkland at 701-297-7400. 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.