Pursuant to the terms of a conciliation agreement, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) announced earlier this month that it facilitated settlement of a sexual harassment Fair Housing Act (FHA) case from California. As a part of the agreement, the Respondents, although denying the allegations, agreed to pay $13,000 as well as provide a neutral landlord reference.
Factually, a resident claimed she was harassed by a maintenance employee at the property. After reporting the alleged misconduct, the resident (who was assisted by a local fair housing advocacy group) asserted management failed to grant her an otherwise appropriate reasonable accommodation request because of a disability and ultimately evicted her from the property.
The HUD press release was light on specific facts. While the dollars here are in the ballpark of other FHA cases, a sexual harassment claim (if proven) can make a case worth more. To be sure, the Respondents strongly denied the harassment claim and further asserted they hired a lawyer to conduct an investigation which did not corroborate the claim. In addition to the monetary relief, the Respondents also agreed to fair housing training and related FHA education/outreach initiatives.
While nobody wants to see an allegation of discrimination filed at his or her property, claims asserting sexual misconduct by employees require special care. You will want to speak with a lawyer like me to review best practices about both taking the complaint seriously while at the same time ensuring the rights of the accused employee are protected. It can be a delicate balancing act, but is something worth doing.
Just A Thought.