WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today that it has sued the owners and managers of Park Towers Apartments, a federally-subsidized apartment complex in Waterloo, Iowa, alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The suit, filed on Nov. 10, 2010, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, alleges that Michael Nieman, the on-site manager of Park Towers, sexually harassed women who were tenants at the complex. The suit alleges that Nieman harassed these women by commenting on their body parts, making other sexual comments, making sexual gestures, entering women’s apartments without permission or notice, and conditioning housing benefits, such as rent, cable television, and lockout fees, on an exchange of sexual favors. The suit also names as defendants Elders, Inc., and J.S. Property Management, L.C., which jointly own and manage Park Towers.
"No woman should have to fear sexual harassment where she lives, as alleged in this case," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "Conditioning housing benefits on sexual favors constitutes unlawful sex discrimination, and the Justice Department will prosecute landlords who engage in such discrimination."
"Sexual harassment by housing providers makes tenants feel uncomfortable and afraid to live in the place they call home," stated John Trasviña, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. "HUD will continue to enforce everyone’s right to live free from discrimination."
This lawsuit arose as a result of complaints filed with HUD by two former tenants. After an investigation of the complaints, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and referred to the Department of Justice after one of the complainants elected to have the case heard in federal court. The suit alleges that the defendants engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination and seeks a court order prohibiting future discrimination by the defendants, monetary damages for those harmed by the defendants’ actions, and a civil penalty.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.usdoj.gov/crt. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.