The owners and manager of a Bakersfield, California, apartment complex have agreed to pay $14,500 to several female residents to settle allegations of sexual harassment, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Under the terms of the agreement, the owners will pay the women who filed the complaint $10,000 in six installments and attend mandatory fair-housing training. The owners will also pay $4,500 to two other aggrieved female residents.
In addition, Mario Prudencio, who was the property manager, will be permanently prohibited from directly or indirectly engaging in or conducting any property management responsibilities. Prudencio is no longer employed and does not serve as property manager of the subject property.
Two women filed the initial complaint and the agreement states that the owners and property manager subjected the women to differential treatment based on sex and subjected them to sexual harassment.
“Throughout the course of the investigation two additional female tenants… also alleged that Respondent Mario Prudencio subjected them to unwelcome sexual comments and unwelcome sexual advances,” the settlement states.
The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for housing providers to sexually harass tenants. This includes creating a severe or pervasive hostile housing environment, or conditioning housing or housing-related services on the tenant’s acquiescence to sexual demands, HUD said in the release.
“A home should be a place of peace and security, not fear and anxiety because of sexual harassment,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, in the release.
The “settlement agreement sends a clear message to all property owners and landlords that HUD is committed to taking appropriate action when offenders engage in behavior that violates the Fair Housing Act,” she said.
In April 2018, HUD and the Justice Department launched a nationwide joint initiative aimed at combating sexual harassment in housing, enhancing public education about the issue, and encouraging those faced with sexual harassment to report their cases.