Landlord Shares Liability for Property Manager’s Sexual Harassment
A jury in Ypsilanti, Michigan has just awarded $115,000 in damages against a property manager for sexually harassing female residents in rental properties. Sexual harassment is a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
The jury also imposed liability on the landlord, a county commissioner, because he knew that the manager was sexually harassing residents but did nothing to stop it.
One woman testified that she complained in person to the owner about manager’s conduct, yet the manager continued to handle the owner’s properties for nearly two more years.
Over the course of a six-day trial, the government presented evidence that the property manager subjected six women to severe and pervasive sexual harassment, ranging from unwelcome sexual comments and sexual advances, to requiring sexual favors in exchange for their tenancy. One woman testified that the manager refused to give her keys to her unit until she agreed to have sex with him. Another woman testified that she had sex with the manager at least 20 times because he threatened that the owner would evict her if she did not.
Damages will be divided among the six female residents whom the jury found were victims of the harassment. The Justice Department plans to seek civil penalties against the defendants as well as comprehensive injunctive relief.
Civil rights laws in this country”including the Fair Housing Act”seek to ensure that all individuals may live free from discrimination and harassment, Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for Civil Rights, said in a statement. Today’s jury verdict reminds landlords and rental agents that tenants should never be subjected to sexual harassment and that the Justice Department will vigorously fight to protect tenants from illegal discrimination.
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