Do You Know How To Respond To a Sexual Harassment Complaint?

The Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on The Fair Housing Act and how to respond to a sexual harassment complaint.

By Ellen Clark

HUD aggressively pursues violations of The Fair Housing Act (FHA) involving harassment in housing and complaints often name property managers directly, so do you know how to respond and stay on top of the situation?

Photo credit Microgen via

Remember courts have consistently recognized sexual harassment as a form of discrimination that violates the FHA.

In addition to individual property managers directly, the complaint may name the corporate entity or owner associated with the complainant’s housing.

Any individual or company that has witnessed or experienced housing discrimination, including sexual harassment, may file a complaint with HUD, free of charge

4 ways  to respond if you find yourself facing a sexual harassment complaint

If a complaint has been filed against you, you will be notified by HUD, and you will have 10 days to respond.

No. 1 – Prioritize mail from HUD

Due to the tight window a company has for responding to a complaint, make sure anyone responsible for collecting mail at your facilities is trained to give mail from HUD priority attention and to forward it to the appropriate person immediately.

No. 2 – Respond to complaints

Although filing an answer is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged.

Responding gives you an opportunity to give your version of the story and provide sufficient information that may convince HUD that it should not pursue the matter further.

No. 3 – Involve legal counsel early

Because your answer will become part of the official case record and any representations can and will be used against you in future proceedings, it is strongly encouraged that you seek the assistance of legal counsel in responding to a HUD complaint.

In addition, legal counsel can likely negotiate an extension of time to respond.

No. 4 – Notify your insurance company early

As soon as you know a complaint has been filed, you should notify your insurance company.

There may be insurance to cover the allegations of the complaint. If there is coverage, the insurance company will only be there to help you if they are notified early.

It is a situation we all hope we never have to face. However, in this time of increased awareness around harassment, it is important to have a game plan for a quick and appropriate response to harassment complaints.


Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill.  Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.

About Grace Hill

For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.