The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit alleging that the owner and manager of rental properties in Davenport, Iowa violated the Fair Housing Act by subjecting a female tenant to sexual harassment and retaliation, according to a release.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, alleges that Juan Goitia, the manager of multiple residential rental units in Davenport, sexually harassed a female tenant from March 2018 until August 2018.
According to the complaint, Goitia made repeated and unwelcome sexual comments, touched the tenant’s body without her consent on multiple occasions, and retaliated against the tenant for filing a fair-housing complaint. The United States also named 908 Bridge Cooperative, the corporate owner of the rental property where the harassment occurred, as a defendant in the lawsuit, according to the release.
“No woman should have to endure sexual harassment to keep her home,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from sexual harassment and retaliation by their landlords, and the Justice Department will vigorously pursue those who engage in such reprehensible and illegal conduct.”
“Women have a hard enough time finding a decent affordable place to live without having to be subjected to unwanted sexual advances,” said Assistant Secretary Anna Maria Farias of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office. “HUD applauds the action the Justice Department is taking in this matter and remains committed to working together to protect the housing rights of women when those rights are violated.”
Sexual harassment of female tenant
The lawsuit arose from a complaint about Goitia’s conduct that the former tenant filed with the Davenport Commission on Civil Rights (DCRC) and HUD. After DCRC and HUD investigated the complaints, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Department of Justice.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victim and a court order barring future discrimination. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct; the allegations must be proven in court.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The attorney general recently reaffirmed this commitment by directing the Department of Justice to deploy all available enforcement tools against anyone who tries to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing. The goal of the initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing. As part of the initiative, the Justice Department developed a public service announcement and formed a joint task force with HUD to combat sexual harassment in housing. Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Department of Justice has filed 16 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.