Justice Department Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit against Owner and Seller of North Carolina Homes
The Justice Department today announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Robert N. Hatfield, who rents, sells, and finances homes in Wilkes County, North Carolina. The lawsuit alleges that Hatfield sexually harassed actual and prospective female residents and borrowers in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, alleges that for over ten years Hatfield has committed egregious acts of sexual harassment against multiple women who have lived in or inquired about his homes. According to the complaint, Hatfield operates some of his homes as rental properties, which he manages, and offers and provides financing to purchasers of his other homes. The suit alleges that Hatfield’s conduct has included making unwelcome sexual comments and advances, engaging in unwanted sexual touching and groping, offering tangible housing benefits in exchange for sex acts, and taking or threatening to take adverse housing actions against women who object to his harassment.
“Sexual harassment in housing and lending is unacceptable, and indeed is illegal,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Every woman has the right to feel safe in her home, and the Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the federal civil rights laws to hold accountable those who violate this basic right.”
“The victims in this case merely wanted to rent or buy a home, a place of sanctity and safety,” said U.S. Attorney Jill Westmoreland Rose of the Western District of North Carolina. “Unfortunately, the process became sordid when Hatfield used the critical need for housing as leverage to make unwanted and aggressive sexual advances. This lawsuit should serve as fair warning that Mr. Hatfield’s actions were not only unlawful, but repugnant to the citizens of Western North Carolina - and this office will work vigorously to protect the women, families and other vulnerable individuals harmed by this type of conduct.”
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate victims, a civil penalty, and a court order barring further discrimination and requiring additional preventive measures. The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must be proven in federal court.
Individuals who believe they may have been victims of housing or lending discrimination by Robert Hatfield or who have information about this matter can contact the Justice Department by phone at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox number 3, or by e-mail at email@example.com. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.justice.gov/crt.