FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, MARCH 28, 2002
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OBTAINS $450,000 VERDICT IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASE AGAINST MISSISSIPPI LANDLORD
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A federal jury in Jackson, Mississippi today returned a $451,208 verdict against a Jackson landlord for sexually harassing female tenants, the Justice Department announced today.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, alleged that the L.T. Jackson Trust and L.T. Jackson, the owner and manager of numerous rental properties located throughout Jackson, subjected female tenants and, in some cases, their teenage daughters, to severe, pervasive, and unwelcome verbal and physical sexual advances. The suit also alleged that Jackson demanded sexual favors from female tenants and evicted or otherwise retaliated against women who did not submit to his sexual advances.
Most of the alleged victims are lower-income, single women who had limited opportunities to seek other housing, making them particularly vulnerable to harassment by a landlord.
"We will not tolerate landlords who prey on vulnerable female tenants," said Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "The jury's verdict sends a clear message to all landlords that tenants should never be subjected to sexual harassment and that landlords who engage in such despicable conduct will be vigorously prosecuted."
The Justice Department alleged that the owner and manager sexually harassed tenants since at least 1994. At the trial, 22 current and former tenants testified that Jackson's actions included unwanted verbal sexual advances, unwanted sexual touching, asking for sexual favors in exchange for tenancy and threatening to retaliate against women who refused his sexual advances.
Punitive and compensatory damages in the amount of $451,208 will be divided among 22 female tenants whom the jury found were victims of the harassment.
The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against persons seeking housing based on their race, national origin, ethnicity, gender, handicap or familial status.
"As this case demonstrates, the Justice Department will vigorously prosecute persons who violate the Fair Housing Act to ensure that all persons are treated equally in housing. No woman should be subjected to sexual harassment at any time, but especially not in the safety and comfort of her own home," said United States Attorney Dunn Lampton.
The United States will file a post-trial motion seeking civil penalties against Jackson as well as a court order barring him from further involvement in the rental business.
Persons who believe that they have been victims of sexual harassment in housing or other housing discrimination should call the Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777 or the Department of Justice at 202-514-4713 or 1-800-896-7743. Additional information is available on HUD's website at www.hud.gov.