Sexual Harassment In Housing And Unwelcome Comments And Requests

Sexual Harassment In Housing And Unwelcome Comments And Requests

Sexual harassment in housing happens thousands of times each year so the Grace Hill training tip this week focuses on the issue of sexual harassment and its many forms in housing.

By Ellen Clark

While harassment of any kind is illegal, the topic of sexual harassment warrants special consideration. Every year, thousands of people face unwelcome comments and requests for sexual favors from landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, and security guards.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) recognize two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile environment sexual harassment.

  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment is an unwelcome request or demand to engage in conduct where the submission is either explicitly or implicitly made a condition related to the terms, conditions, or privileges of the sale or rental. An unwelcome request or demand may constitute quid pro quo harassment even if the person agrees to the unwelcome request or demand. A property manager telling a prospective resident that she’ll waive the pet fee if he goes on a date with her is an example of quid pro quo sexual harassment.
  • Hostile environment sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct that is sufficiently severe or pervasive enough to interfere with the use or enjoyment of the apartment home or other facilities. Determining a hostile environment depends on many factors, including nature, severity, frequency, duration, context, and location of the conduct. An example of hostile environment sexual harassment would be a leasing consultant making frequent comments about a resident’s body while she is at the swimming pool to the point where his behavior makes her stop visiting the swimming pool.

Considering the attention sexual harassment has gotten lately, you may be feeling nervous or confused about what is and isn’t appropriate.

Here are some tips on the issue of sexual harassment in housing

  • Take a moment to think about how others may perceive actions you consider friendly.
  • In general, do not initiate hugs or kisses with customers and coworkers.Even if you are just an affectionate person and don’t mean anything by it, it could make people uncomfortable, and they may be too polite to tell you so. You can still be friendly—try a big smile and a positive greeting instead.
  • In general, avoid commenting on how customers and coworkers look, like telling a customer she looks great in her jeans or telling a co-worker he’s “looking hot.” What may seem like a harmless compliment to you could be unwanted attention for that person.
  • If you see harassing behavior happening, don’t play along and don’t ignore it. The person doing the harassing may think your silence or nervous laughter means that you are OK with the behavior. If you don’t feel safe speaking up, at least report the behavior to your supervisor or the HR department.
  • If you are a supervisor, immediately investigate and respond to any complaints of harassment.

The increased spotlight on sexual harassment is not going away. HUD is serious about investigating complaints of sexual harassment, and owners and operators of rental housing communities are paying the price.

Make sure your employees are aware of the laws, but more importantly make sure they are trained in what is appropriate, respectful behavior that should be shown at all times.

Sexual harassment in housing a HUD and Justice Department initiative

“This important initiative is giving a voice to victims of sexual harassment in housing. It also sends the strong message that the Department is listening to victims and taking action against landlords and managers who attempt to prey on vulnerable individuals all over the country,”  Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore for the Civil Rights Division said in a release last year. “The Justice Department remains committed to our goal to make more people aware that no one should have to choose between a home and the right to be free from sexual harassment.”

“A home can never be a place of peace and comfort for individuals who are subjected to sexual harassment,” Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in a release last year. “We still have work to do, but the initiative has taken tremendous steps this past year toward addressing this unlawful behavior and the Justice Department and HUD remain committed to doing even more to inform the public about their housing rights.”

Read Ellen’s blog here.

Recent Grace Hill training tips you may have missed:

What Do You Do When Assistance Animals Break The Rules?

7 Ways To Stay Out Of Trouble When Checking Criminal History

5 Ways To Protect Applicants, Residents And Employees From Sexual Harassment

Do You Have A Smoke-Free Policy That Adequately Protects Residents?

How To Handle Suspicious Documentation For Assistance Animals

How A No Pet Policy Can Be Discriminatory

Property Management Cyber attack Risks Overlooked, Underestimated

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

Have You Reviewed Your Criminal Background Checks Policy Lately?

Multifamily Managers And Marijuana: Caught In A Pot Crossfire

Fair Housing Discrimination Against Someone You’ve Never Talked To?

4 Ways To Avoid Screening Pitfalls With Applicants

Red Flags In Evaluating Documentation For Assistance Animals

About the author:

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 more than 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. Contact Grace Hill at 866.472.2344 to hear more.