The Department of Justice on Oct. 3 launched a new initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing, including specific 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 stated it aims to encourage reporting of sexual harassment to enforcement agencies, and will collaborate with local law enforcement, legal-services providers and public-housing authorities.

The civil-rights division of the DOJ 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 considered a form of sex discrimination prohibited under this law. The division will target sexual harassment first in Washington, D.C. and Virginia then expand to other states.

Two recent federal sexual harassment cases in Kansas City and Grand Rapids, Michigan, were resolved including monetary payments, according to the DOJ. Since January 2017, the division stated it has filed or settled five cases and recovered more than $1 million for victims of sexual harassment in housing.

In the Kansas City case, the DOJ recovered $360,000 for 14 female residents and applicants of a housing authority who were subjected to unwanted sexual conduct. The complaint alleged in part that an employee of the housing authority subjected women to unwanted sexual conduct as a condition for favorable hearing decisions, including asking them sexual questions, showing pornographic pictures and videos, making explicit sexual comments and exposing himself.

James Dunn covers technology, biotech, law, the food industry, and banking and finance. Reach him at: james.dunn@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4257