A New York landlord, his property manager and an employee have been ordered to pay $2 million to tenants who were sexually harassed by the building super and manager.
In addition, the men will pay $58,000 in civil penalties and costs. The $2,058,000, agreement represents the largest recovery ever in a sexual harassment suit brought by the United States under the Fair Housing Act.
Commenting on the case, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said, The conduct alleged in this case subjected female tenants to forms of harassment that would be unacceptable in any environment, let alone in their homes ” it was also blatantly illegal. The right to live in an environment that is free from sexual harassment is sacrosanct, and conduct that violates that right will not be tolerated. As this case demonstrates, we will aggressively use our authority to protect the right to be free from discrimination in any form.
It was alleged that the landlord hired a maintenance worker, despite his history as a Level 3 registered sex offender, to serve as the superintendent of the properties. While employed in that role, tenants complained that the man sexually harassed them, including unwanted verbal and physical advances, attempting to barter sex for housing favors, and retaliating against the women when they refused to comply.
The landlord’s son served as the property manager, and is accused of creating a hostile environment for female tenants by repeatedly subjecting them to vulgar and offensive epithets because of their gender, threatening them, and engaging in other “intimidating, humiliating, and abusive” behavior.
The landlord allegedly was aware of his employees sexual harassment of the tenants, condoned the conduct, and failed to take any steps to halt the harassment despite receiving numerous complaints.
In addition to the fines, the super is permanently enjoined from entering the properties in the future and from having any involvement in the management or maintenance of occupied rental housing properties. He will only be permitted to perform maintenance in completely unoccupied properties, or in the vacant apartments of occupied properties when accompanied by a third party.
In March of last year, the Department of Justice brought charges for sexual harassment against a landlord in Bakersfield, California. That landlord, who has owned and managed over 50 units for over 30 years, is accused of requesting sexual favors in exchange for housing benefits, and taking adverse action against women who refused his sexual advances.
In response to the California case, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Departments Civil Rights Division stated,No person should have to fear sexual harassment from a landlord who holds a key to their home.
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