Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that the owner and manager of dozens of residential rental properties in California had agreed to pay more than $2 million to resolve a Fair Housing Act (FHA) lawsuit alleging that he sexually harassed women residents and prospective residents for quite some time. 

The DOJ’s allegations included that the defendant sexually harassed the women by making unwelcome sexual comments and advances, exposing his genitals to women residents, touching women without their consent, granting and denying housing benefits based on sex and taking adverse actions against women who refused his sexual advances. The damage award is believed to be the largest monetary settlement ever agreed to in a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by DOJ in a FHA case.  

The deal, which still must be approved by a federal judge, will require the defendant to pay just over $2 million to 25 women as well as a $55,000 civil penalty to the United States, the maximum penalty available under the FHA. In addition to the money, the settlement will require the defendant to hire an independent manager to run his rental properties and imposes severe restrictions on his ability to contact current and future residents. 

While typical FHA cases do not involve damages anywhere near this range, when DOJ sees egregious facts, we have all seen that the government can and will act. 

Just A Thought.