FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, MAY 13, 2004
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OBTAINS RECORD $ 1.1 MILLION VERDICT IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT CASE AGAINST LANDLORD IN KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI
WASHINGTON, D.C.- The Justice Department today announced that a Kansas City, Missouri landlord was ordered to pay damages of over $ 1.1 million for sexually harassing female tenants.
The jury awarded compensatory and punitive damages totaling $1,102,804 to 11 female tenants who were found to be victims of landlord Bobby Veal’s harassment. The individual damage awards ranged from $10,001 to $310,000. The verdict is the largest ever obtained by the Justice Department in a Fair Housing Act case.
The Justice Department filed suit against Veal in July 2002 in U.S. District Court in Kansas City for the Western District of Missouri. The complaint alleged that the defendant demanded sexual favors from tenants and evicted certain tenants who did not submit to his advances. During trial, Justice Departments prosecutors presented evidence Veal had sexually harassed tenants since at least 1994. At the three-day trial, 11 former residents testified that Veal's actions included unwanted verbal sexual advances, unwanted sexual touching, asking for sexual favors in exchange for tenancy and threats to retaliate against women who refused his sexual advances. A former resident testified that Veal forced her to have sex twice in her apartment, once in the presence of her children.
“We will not tolerate landlords who use their power to prey on vulnerable tenants,” said R. Alexander Acosta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “The jury's verdict sends a clear message that the Justice Department will aggressively pursue any landlord who engages in this type of despicable conduct. Sexual acquiescence should never be the price of a roof over anyone’s head.”
Veal’s wife and the co-owner of the rental properties, Jewel Veal, was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Most of the victims are lower-income, single women who had limited opportunities to seek other housing, making them particularly vulnerable to harassment by a landlord.
The Justice Department will file a post-trial motion seeking civil penalties against the Veals as well as a court order requiring them to turn over the management and operation of their rental properties to an independent management company as well as other appropriate injunctive relief.
The Kansas City Missouri Human Rights Department brought this matter to the attention of the Justice Department after it received complaints from tenants at Mr. Veal's properties.
This is the third case in which the Justice Department has obtained a significant jury verdict for victims of sexual harassment by a landlord. In 1999, a Cleveland, Ohio jury awarded $490,000 to tenants and former tenants of an Akron, Ohio landlord. And in 2002, a jury in Jackson, Mississippi awarded a $451,208 verdict to victims of harassment by landlord in that city.
Since January 1, 2001, the Division has filed 119 cases under the Fair Housing Act, 6 of which have alleged sexual harassment in housing.
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 <http://www.hud.gov> and the Justice Department website at www.usdoj.gov/crt/housing. <http://www.usdoj.gov>