In an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing, the Justice Department has announced a new initiative that specifically “seeks to increase the department’s efforts to protect women from harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security guards, and other employees and representatives of rental property owners.“
The DOJ will work to identify barriers to reporting sexual harassment to the department and other enforcement agencies. Also, the agency will collaborate with local law enforcement, legal services providers, and public housing authorities to leverage their expertise, the DOJ stated.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division will lead the initiative. The division 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 under this law.
The Civil Rights Division plans to launch a pilot of the initiative in two jurisdictions, Washington, D.C., and western Virginia, where it is working with legal service providers and local law enforcement to raise awareness about the issue, according to the DOJ, which says it hopes to expand the effort to other areas of the country in the near future.
“No woman should be made to feel unsafe in her own home,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore, of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in a statement. “The Justice Department is committed to vigorously enforcing the Fair Housing Act’s ban on sexual harassment and is looking forward to working closely with state and local partners to combat this problem.”