Massachusetts Landlord Accused of Subjecting Women to Sexual Harassment

The Justice Department recently filed a lawsuit alleging that female residents of rental properties in Massachusetts were subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.

The lawsuit alleged that from at least 2009 through the present, the landlord sexually harassed female tenants of rental properties owned by the landlord and related businesses. The complaint further alleges that an employee, a Level 3 registered sex offender, also harassed and assaulted female residents. 

The complaint alleged that the landlord engaged in harassment that included making unwelcome sexual advances and comments; engaging in unwanted sexual touching; offering to grant tangible benefits—such as reducing rent amounts—in exchange for engaging in sexual acts; refusing to provide needed maintenance services or taking other adverse housing actions against female residents who resisted or objected to his unwelcome sexual harassment; intimidating female residents by monitoring them from outside their apartments or rooms; and, after receiving notice of the employee’s alleged sexual harassment of female residents, failing to take any action to prevent the employee from future sexual harassment.

The complaint further alleges that the employee subjected female residents to unwelcome sexual contact including groping, sexual assault, and forced touching of their bodies, without consent; unwanted exposure to female residents; making unwelcome sexual comments and sexual advances toward female residents; and making intrusive, unannounced visits to female residents’ units to conduct and further his sexual advances.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties, and a court order barring future discrimination.

“Landlords or their employees who sexually harass tenants will be held accountable under the law by the Department of Justice,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in a statement. “Such depraved conduct, targeting some of the most vulnerable in our communities, violates the Fair Housing Act and will not be tolerated. The Civil Rights Division will continue to enforce the law vigorously and work to secure justice for victims of these offenses.”

“No one should ever have to choose between housing and sexual harassment,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “Sexual harassment is illegal under the Fair Housing Act, and my office is committed to achieving justice and compensation for individuals whose civil rights have been violated. I encourage anyone who has been subjected to sexual harassment by his or her landlord or employee of a landlord to report it to my office.”

“Subjecting a person to sexual harassment not only violates the law, it robs that individual of the ability to feel safe and secure in the place they call home,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD applauds today’s action and will continue working in partnership with the Justice Department to address this form of discrimination.”