Iowa Community to Pay $95K to Settle Sexual Harrassment Case

September 24, 2011
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Last week, the former owner and managers of an 84-unit community in Iowa agreed to a $95,000 settlement to resolve allegations of sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

According to the complaint, the on-site manager subjected female residents to discrimination on the basis of sex, including severe, pervasive, and unwelcome sexual harassment. Among other things, he was accused of commenting on female residents’ body parts and making other inappropriate sexual remarks; making inappropriate sexual gestures; entering units of female residents without permission or notice; and conditioning or suggesting that he would condition tangible housing benefits including rent, cable television, lockout fees, and permission to have roommates on the provision of sexual favors. Since the lawsuit was filed in 2010, all of the defendants have ceased to work in the residential rental business.

Pending court approval, the consent decree requires the defendants to pay $80,000 to 10 victims and $15,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. The consent decree also prohibits the defendants from engaging in discrimination and bars the on-site manager from returning to work in the management, rental, or maintenance of rental housing.

“Sexual harassment by a landlord or property manager violates a woman’s right to feel safe and secure in her home,” Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “This settlement sends the message that such harassment will not be tolerated, and that the Civil Rights Division will aggressively pursue landlords who engage in it.”

The settlement “also serves as a warning to other landlords that they will be held accountable if they engage in or enable others to engage in acts of sexual harassment against residents,” added Stephanie Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa.

This lawsuit arose as a result of complaints filed with HUD by two former residents. After investigating the complaints, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and referred the case to the DOJ.

“Harassment victims are not alone in the fight to protect their housing rights. HUD and the Department of Justice work vigorously to protect women and enforce their right to live free from discrimination,” said John Trasviña, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice