Damage awards under our Fair Housing Act (FHA) can be large or small. As it should be, each case depends on the particular facts and circumstances. I have used this space in the past to keep you updated on some of the larger awards which reflect the most egregious conduct. And, unfortunately, I am back again today with yet another entry.
Just yesterday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that a Cincinnati, Ohio landlord agreed to the entry of an $885,000 civil judgment against him, after admitting that the landlord violated the FHA. The DOJ's complaint alleged that the landlord subjected women residents and applicants to: (a) unwanted sexual comments and touching; (b) the entering of their apartments without notice or permission; (c) the granting of tangible housing benefits in exchange for sexual favors; and (d) the taking of adverse actions against female residents when they declined his sexual advances.
Pursuant to the terms of the consent judgment, the landlord agreed to pay $800,000 to 14 women who were sexually harassed and a $55,000 civil money penalty to the United States. Furthermore, the settlement prevents the landlord from additional acts of discrimination and requires him to hire an independent management company to take over any currently rented units as well as any future rental properties he acquires.
The DOJ started its investigation in this matter after a local fair housing group notified the government about the allegations of sexual misconduct. Now, I want to be clear that I always believe there are two sides to every story and it would be inappropriate to make a decision before both sides are heard. However, sexual misconduct remains a DOJ priority and as this case reflects, the government will proceed when it believes it has a case.
Just A Thought.