Justice Department Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Massachusetts Sober Home Operator
Defendant Allegedly Sexually Harassed Female Residents
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit today alleging that Peter McCarthy, who operates a group of residential sober homes through his company, Steps to Solutions Inc., subjected female residents to sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit alleges that from at least 2012 through at least 2019, Peter McCarthy — the registered agent and sole officer of Steps to Solutions Inc. — sexually harassed female residents of his Steps to Solutions sober homes by offering to reduce or forgive rent, granting extra house privileges or waiving security deposits in exchange for engaging in sexual acts; requesting sexually explicit photographs and indicating that he would reduce or waive rent in exchange for the images; making unwanted sexual comments regarding female residents’ bodies; and retaliating and taking adverse housing actions against residents who reported his conduct. The lawsuit seeks a court order to prevent future discriminatory conduct, monetary damages to compensate victims of McCarthy’s conduct and civil penalties. The lawsuit alleges that Steps to Solutions Inc. is liable for McCarthy’s conduct.
“The Fair Housing Act’s promise of non-discrimination applies to everyone,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “At a time when our country is experiencing record numbers of deaths related to drug overdoses, it is particularly disturbing to see sexually harassing conduct targeted at individuals who are in recovery. The Department of Justice will not tolerate landlords who abuse their power and will continue to vigorously pursue allegations of sexual harassment.”
“It is disappointing that a landlord who is supposed to be helping vulnerable women beat drug addiction was allegedly sexually harassing them and offering to reduce their rent in exchange for sex,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell for the District of Massachusetts. “Thankfully, the Fair Housing Act gives us effective tools to stop such despicable conduct and protect those who are being preyed upon. People who have experienced this kind of sexual harassment might be reluctant to report it, but we need to hear from them. Reporting sexual harassment is essential to stop and prevent sexual harassment.”
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The goal of the initiative is to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing. Since launching the initiative in October 2017, the Justice Department has filed 22 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.
Individuals who have information about this case can contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office by calling (888) 221-6023 or by emailing USAMA.email@example.com.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which 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 wishing to report discrimination in housing may call the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a report online.
The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was established in 2015 with the mission of enhancing federal civil rights enforcement. For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-ma/civil-rights.