Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ filed a new Fair Housing Act (FHA) complaint in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri asserting that two landlords in St. Louis subjected female residents at their property to sexual harassment and retaliation. The lawsuit, which resulted following an administrative complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, asserts that the offensive harassment included conditioning housing or housing benefits on an agreement to engage in certain sexual acts, coercing female residents to engage in unwelcome sexual acts, subjecting female residents to unwelcome physical touching, making inappropriate sexual comments and advances to female residents, as well as taking adverse actions against female residents who refused the sexual advances.
While there can absolutely be gray areas in the law from time to time concerning if certain conduct violates the FHA, and while I cannot comment on the merits of the specific allegations here and recognize there are always two sides to every story, professional apartment management (including our leasing and service employees) must be trained to prevent and report sexual harassment. This one is not hard. Engage with our residents? Yes. Welcome applicants and work to turn prospects into residents? Sure. Inappropriately touch or otherwise demand anything sexual in return for housing or housing benefits? No. Simple as that.
You might want to speak with a lawyer like me and your Human Resources contact if you believe anyone at your property is harassing a resident (or employee). Related issues can include what happens if an employee of a vendor at your community harasses a resident (I have a case like this right now) or if a resident harasses another resident (I had this case a couple of years ago).
Just A Thought.