In an effort to strengthen protections in the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) against sexual harassment, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Michigan introduced a bill earlier this month to further define sexual harassment and to ensure certain conduct is covered under the law. Specifically, the legislation seeks to amend the FHA to make it easier for victims to bring cases of sexual harassment to court. Under the language in this bill, harassment against a resident would be an automatic violation of the statute. Harassment would be defined to include “unwelcome touching of a sexual nature or groping, or other actions of a sexual nature intended to be coercive, threatening or intimidating.” If the conduct occurs in or near a dwelling, that conduct shall be considered severe or pervasive – and against the law.

To date, there are 16 cosponsors and the bill remains in the House Judiciary Committee. I have not seen housing law as a priority for the current House, but language like this could be attached to another piece of legislation that is designated as something that must pass.

The takeaway for management: discrimination on the basis of sex is already covered under the law. I think in practice much of this type of conduct is already covered by federal and/or state law. This bill, however, would further define harassment, which is never a bad thing as I always seek clarity. As long as professional apartment management knows what the law is – we can do our best to follow it.

Just A Thought.