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The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that the co-owners and managers of rental properties in Russellville, Kentucky, violated the Fair Housing Act by subjecting female tenants to sexual harassment and retaliation.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, alleges that Gordon Whitescarver sexually harassed a number of female tenants since at least 2012. According to the complaint, he, among other things, made repeated and unwelcome sexual comments, entered the homes of female tenants without their consent, touched female tenants’ bodies without their consent, requested sexual favors, offered reduced or free rent in exchange for sexual favors, and took adverse housing-related actions against female tenants who refused his sexual advances. The lawsuit also names as a defendant Betsy Whitescarver, Gordon Whitescarver’s wife, who co-owns and manages the properties. According to the complaint, she threatened and retaliated against women who complained about her husband’s harassment.
“No woman should have to endure sexual harassment to remain in 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 hold accountable those who engage in such reprehensible and illegal conduct and will work tirelessly to obtain relief for their victims.”
“Be it Logan County or Louisville, this foul conduct towards women will not be tolerated in the Western District of Kentucky,” said Russell Coleman, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky.
In October 2017, the Department of Justice 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. Since launching the initiative, the Department of Justice has filed 14 lawsuits alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing.
Today’s lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties to vindicate the public interest, and a court order barring future discrimination. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct; the allegations must be proven in federal court.
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 http://www.justice.gov/crt.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings owned or managed by the Whitescarvers, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, can contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line, at 1-800-896-7743, and select option number 98 to leave a message.
Individuals can also report sexual harassment and other forms of housing discrimination by e-mailing the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.