A landlord and his employee, a registered sex offender, subjected female tenants of his residential rental properties to sexual harassment and retaliation, such as refusing to assist with maintenance at their properties after the tenants rejected their advances, the U.S. Department of Justice charges in a lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts, charges that female tenants of residential rental properties in Worcester were subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation going back to 2009, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
The landlord, Mohan Prashad, is accused of making unwanted advances, touching tenants sexually without consent, and offering to “grant tangible benefits—such as reducing rent amounts” in exchange for sexual acts. He is also accused of retaliating against tenants who resisted his harassment by intimidating them with eviction threats and refusing necessary maintenance services, according to the lawsuit.
One woman alleged Prashad stopped providing heat to her apartment and initiated eviction proceedings after she denied his advances. He reportedly asked another tenant if she was a stripper and offered to pay her $1,000 for “an hour.”
“No one should ever have to choose between housing and sexual harassment,” U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling, said in the release. “Sexual harassment is illegal under the Fair Housing Act, and my office is committed to achieving justice and compensation for individuals whose civil rights have been violated. I encourage anyone who has been subjected to sexual harassment by his or her landlord or employee of a landlord to report it to my office.”
Prashad also allegedly hired a level 3 sex offender David Besaw, and did not take action against him when he was accused of raping a tenant’s guest while she slept, according to the Boston Globe.
Besaw, a Level 3 registered sex offender in Massachusetts, has been employed by Prashad since at least 2014 to assist with the management and maintenance of his rental properties, according to the release.
Prashad owns about 15 residential properties in Worcester under his name and through Lanaton LLC and Savton LLC, which are also named defendants in the suit.
“Landlords or their employees who sexually harass tenants will be held accountable under the law by the Department of Justice,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said in the release. “Such depraved conduct, targeting some of the most vulnerable in our communities, violates the Fair Housing Act and will not be tolerated. The Civil Rights Division will continue to enforce the law vigorously and work to secure justice for victims of these offenses.”
“No one should ever have to choose between housing and sexual harassment,” U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling, said in the release.
“Sexual harassment is illegal under the Fair Housing Act, and my office is committed to achieving justice and compensation for individuals whose civil rights have been violated. I encourage anyone who has been subjected to sexual harassment by his or her landlord or employee of a landlord to report it to my office.”
Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, said in the release, “Subjecting a person to sexual harassment not only violates the law, it robs that individual of the ability to feel safe and secure in the place they call home.” She said HUD will “continue working in partnership with the Justice Department to address this form of discrimination.”
Landlord sexual harassment
The complaint alleges that Prashad:
- Engaged in harassment that included making unwelcome sexual advances and comments
- Engaging in unwanted sexual touching
- Offering to grant tangible benefits — such as reducing rent amounts — in exchange for engaging in sexual acts
- Refusing to provide needed maintenance services
- Taking other adverse housing actions against female tenants who resisted or objected to his unwelcome sexual harassment
- Intimidating female tenants by monitoring them from outside their apartments or rooms.
- After receiving notice of Besaw’s sexual harassment of female tenants, failing to take any action to prevent Besaw from future sexual harassment, according to the release.
The complaint further alleges that “Besaw subjected female tenants to unwelcome sexual contact including groping, sexual assault, and forced touching of their bodies, without consent; unwanted exposure to female tenants; making unwelcome sexual comments and sexual advances toward female tenants; and making intrusive, unannounced visits to female tenants’ units to conduct and further his sexual advances.”
This is the 11th lawsuit alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing filed since October 2017 when the Justice Department launched an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing. In April 2018, the Department announced the nationwide rollout of the initiative, including three major components: an outreach toolkit to leverage the Department’s nationwide network of U.S. Attorney’s Offices, a public awareness campaign, including the release of a national Public Service Announcement and a new joint Task Force with HUD to combat sexual harassment in housing.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination.
Individuals who have information about this case can contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights Unit by calling 617-748-3100 and asking for the Civil Rights Intake Specialist, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Victims of sexual harassment related to housing nationwide can also contact the Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative by calling 1-844-380-6178, or through email at email@example.com.
Victims of sexual harassment related to housing nationwide can also contact the Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative by calling 1-844-380-6178, or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.