The Justice Department filed a lawsuit today against Shevis “Don” Petties of Moore, Oklahoma, for sexually harassing female tenants in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Petties has owned, operated or managed residential rental properties in Oklahoma City, Forest Park, and Moore, Oklahoma, since at least 2016.
“These women lived in fear every day that their landlord would enter their bedroom unannounced, film them in the bathroom, make lewd comments about their bodies and appearance and grope them,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to enforcing federal civil rights laws to ensure landlords are held accountable for unlawful and predatory behavior.”
“Tenants have the right under federal fair housing laws to be free from unwanted sexual harassment and intimidation by their landlord in order to obtain or maintain housing,” said U.S. Attorney Robert J. Troester for the Western District of Oklahoma. “Today’s civil complaint represents a significant step in the Justice Department’s efforts to pursue justice and compensation for vulnerable female victims who have been subjected to civil rights violations.”
The lawsuit alleges that Petties subjected female tenants to unwelcome sexual contact and comments about their physical appearances; physically assaulted tenants; entered tenants’ bedrooms without consent; photographed and filmed female tenants in their bedrooms and bathrooms without their knowledge and permission and demanded that female tenants engage in sexual acts with him under threat of losing their housing. The lawsuit also names the current owners of the rental properties, TMH Group Inc, The Monarch House LLC, also known as Monarch House LLC, and Exceptional Service Company LLC as defendants.
The lawsuit seeks money damages to compensate women harmed by the alleged harassment, a fine for the United States and a court order prohibiting future acts of discrimination and harassment.
The FHA prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. It also prohibits sexual harassment, a form of sex discrimination. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment at rental properties owned or operated by Petties, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, may contact the Justice Department by calling its Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative at 1-844-380-6178, or by calling the U.S. Attorney’s Office at 405-553-8700.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country. The initiative seeks to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance works, loan officers and other people who have control over housing. Since launching the initiative in October 2017, the department has filed 38 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered nearly $11 million for victims of such harassment. The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting people from sexual misconduct.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Individuals may report discrimination in housing that violates the Fair Housing Act by calling the Justice Department at 1-833-591-0291, or submitting a report online.
View the complaint here.