Tampa, FL — The Attorney General has directed U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the nation to investigate reports of sexual harassment in housing as the nation mounts its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez reaffirms her commitment to combat these predatory practices throughout the Middle District of Florida. Sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, and others may violate the federal Fair Housing Act. The Department of Justice remains unwavering in the enforcement of this vital statute.
“Sexual harassment in housing is illegal and infringes upon one’s right to fair housing,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “Individuals should not be forced to relinquish their dignity and submit to threats, coercion, or harassment in order to stay safe within their homes during this global pandemic. This appalling behavior is illegal and will not be tolerated.”
As a result of the COVID-19 public health crisis, many citizens have found themselves furloughed, unemployed, or otherwise in dire financial straits. This has led many to seek abatements, suspensions of their rent payments, or find other accommodations during this time. While many landlords and housing providers have positively responded with understanding and assistance, sadly, others may seek an opportunity to exploit the financially vulnerable through demands for sexual favors and other acts of unwelcome sexual misconduct. The U.S. Attorney’s Office stands ready to investigate and prosecute complaints of sexual harassment in housing and work with our partners to enforce the law and prosecute anyone who engages in this behavior.
If you, or anyone you know, believes they are the victim of sexual harassment by a landlord, or other individual who has control over housing, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, please submit a complaint through the U.S. Attorney’s Office at www.justice.gov/usao-mdfl/civil-rights or email any questions to USAFLM.Civil.Rights@usdoj.gov. For further information on sexual harassment in housing, please visit www.justice.gov/crt/sexual-harassment-housing-initiative.