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Department of Justice launches initiative to fight sexual harassment in housing

Program will be piloted in Washington, D.C. and western Virginia

The Department of Justice announced Tuesday it is launching a new initiative to fight sexual harassment in housing.

Specifically, the DOJ said the program aims 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.

According to the DOJ, one of the pieces of the initiative is to “work to identify barriers to reporting sexual harassment to the Department and other enforcement agencies.”

As part of the initiative, the DOJ will also work with local law enforcement, legal services providers, and public housing authorities to “leverage their expertise,” the DOJ said in a release.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division will lead this effort. The Civil Rights Division is tasked with enforcing 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 one of the forms of discrimination that are prohibited under the Fair Housing Act.

According to the DOJ, the Civil Rights Division will launch a pilot of this program in two areas – Washington, D.C. and western Virginia. The DOJ said that it is already working with legal service providers and local law enforcement to raise awareness about this issue. 

From there, the DOJ said that it hopes to expand the effort to other areas of the country in the “near future.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said that the initiative is critically important.

“No woman should be made to feel unsafe in her own home,” Gore said. “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.”

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