INDIANAPOLIS — The United States Department of Justice announced Monday that if anyone has witnessed or experienced harassment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to report the allegation to the Civil Rights Coordinator Jeffrey D. Preston.
Discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, and other protected classes is unlawful under several federal laws and may result in criminal or civil liability. Discrimination can arise in many different contexts in addition to housing, including education, employment, health and safety, and places of public accommodation.
"Enforcing our nation's civil rights laws is one of the top priorities in my office," U.S. Attorney Josh J. Minkler said.
The coronavirus impact has left several vulnerable communities — including people with disabilities, limited English proficiency, service members, and others — subjected to sexual exploitation, according to Minkler. Such examples being housing providers, such as landlords and managers, who exploit tenants for sex in exchange for rent or other housing needs. Such acts are in violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).
"We must remain vigilant and work together in this area, especially during this public health crisis," Minkler said. "COVID-19 has affected all races, religions, ethnicities, and those with disabilities. Please help us address any suspected discrimination, as we enforce the laws that prohibit such behavior."
According to a new Indiana University survey, people of color, people living in poverty, and those with children are most at risk of having their utilities disconnected due to the impact of COVID-19. The survey found that 22% of respondents had to reduce or forgo basic household needs, like medicine or food, to pay an energy bill. About 40% indicated that the pandemic had harmed their ability to seek medical care.
If you believe you are a victim of discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, or other protected classes, you can find information about how to file a complaint at www.justice.gov.