Friday, May 1, 2020

U.S. Attorney’s Office Ups Efforts to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing

Posted By on Fri, May 1, 2020 at 11:30 AM

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee is increasing its efforts to combat sexual harassment in housing as many struggle with housing insecurity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant is asking that Tennesseans who have witnessed or experienced sexual harassment by a landlord, property manager, maintenance worker, or anyone with control over housing to report it to the Department of Justice.

This increased effort comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many to experience housing insecurity and an inability to pay rent on time. The department is working with state and local partners to identify incidents of sexual harassment in housing and will investigate such allegations, pursuing enforcement actions where necessary.

“Every person in this district deserves the right to live in a place of their choosing without fear of sexual harassment,” Dunavant said. “This is not a small town issue or a big city issue, but an issue of respect and dignity. We want women and men throughout all of West Tennessee to know that there’s someone they can turn to if you feel unsafe in your home, no matter where their home is.

The Fair Housing Act authorizes the Department of Justice to take “swift action” against anyone who sexually harasses tenants, Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for civil rights said.

“Landlords, property owners, and others who prey on vulnerable tenants during the COVID-19 pandemic should be on notice. We 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.”

This effort is a part of the Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative, which was launched in 2017. Since then, the initiative has brought lawsuits across the country, which has led to millions of dollars in damages to victims of harassment.

The department frequently uncovers harassment that has been ongoing for years, as many individuals do not know sexual harassment by a housing provider is a violation of federal law.

Anyone who has experienced or witnessed this type of harassment can report it to the justice department’s Civil Rights Division by calling 844-360-6178 or emailing Individuals can also call the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee at 901-544-4231.

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