The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is teaming up with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat sexual harassment in housing. In recognition of the Fair Housing Act’s 50th Anniversary, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “nationwide rollout of an initiative aimed at increasing awareness and reporting of sexual harassment in housing.” This will include a task force from both departments, an outreach toolkit and a campaign to raise public awareness.
“All discrimination stains the very fabric of our nation, but HUD is especially focused on protecting the right of everyone to feel safe and secure in their homes, free from unwanted sexual harassment,” said Secretary Ben Carson. “No person should have to tolerate unwanted sexual advances in order to keep a roof over his or her head. Part of our mission at HUD is to provide safe housing and we will remain diligent in this mission to protect those we serve. I look forward to working with Attorney General Sessions and the Department of Justice as part of this task force to bring an end to this type of discrimination.”
“Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, immoral, and unacceptable,” said Attorney General Sessions. “It is all too common today, as too many landlords, managers, and their employees attempt to prey on vulnerable women. We will not hesitate to pursue these predators and enforce the law. In October, I ordered a new initiative to bring more of these cases, and we have already won relief for 15 victims. Today we announce three new steps to make the initiative more effective and to win more cases. I want to thank the dedicated and committed professionals in our Civil Rights Division and our partners in the Department of Housing and Urban Development for their hard work in this effort. We will continue to aggressively pursue harassers, because everyone has a right to be safe in their home.”
This anti-sexual harassment initiative actually began in October of 2017 when the DOJ started pilot programs in D.C. and the Western District of Virginia. The goal was to increase the DOJ’s role in protecting women from sexual harassment from “landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security guards, and other employees and representatives of rental property owners.” As a result, the Department was able to develop ways to connect victims with organizations that can help them. This includes law enforcement, legal services, maintenance workers and other employees.
According to HUD, the new program is made up of three major components.
- The new HUD-DOJ Task Force to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing will drive a shared strategy between the Department and HUD for combatting sexual harassment in housing across the country. It will focus on five key areas: continued data sharing and analysis, joint development of training, evaluation of public housing complaint mechanisms, coordination of public outreach and press strategy, and review of federal policies.
- The outreach toolkit is designed to leverage the HUD and Justice Department’s nationwide network of U.S. Attorney’s Offices. The toolkit provides templates, guidance, and checklists based on pilot program feedback. It ultimately will amplify available enforcement resources and help victims of sexual harassment connect with the Department.
- The public awareness campaign has three major components: a partnership package with relevant stakeholders, launch of a social media campaign, and Public Service Announcements (PSAs) run by the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys. The campaign is specifically designed to raise awareness, and make it easier for victims all over the country to find resources and report harassment.
You can find more information on the Department of Justice website.