N.J. Landlord Sued for Sexual Harassment
The Justice Department recently sued the owner of rental properties in New Jersey with violating federal fair housing law by subjecting female residents to sexual harassment. The complaint alleged that the defendant, who owns hundreds of rental units in and around Elizabeth, N.J., has subjected residents and applicants to sexual harassment on multiple occasions since at least 2005.
According to the complaint, the defendant demanded sexual favors like oral sex to get or keep housing, offered housing benefits like reduced rent in exchange for sexual favors, touched residents and applicants in a way that was sexual and unwelcome, and made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to residents and applicants. The complaint also alleged that defendant initiated or threatened to initiate eviction actions against residents who objected to or refused his sexual advances.
According to the complaint, the defendant participates in the federal Housing Choice Voucher program (also known as Section 8) and receives more than $100,000 each month in Housing Choice Voucher payments.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties to vindicate the public interest, and a court order barring future discrimination. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct; the allegations must be proven in federal court.
“The Fair Housing Act protects the right of all persons in our nation to rent a home without suffering sexual exploitation at the hands of abusive landlords. Demanding sexual favors from tenants, especially those who are financially vulnerable, is illegal,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from sexual harassment and retaliation by their landlords, and the Justice Department will hold accountable those who engage in such cruel, depraved, and illegal conduct and will work tirelessly to obtain relief for their victims.”