Justice News

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 18, 2017

Justice Department Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Owners and Manager of Kansas Rental Properties

The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that female tenants in residential rental properties in Wichita, Kansas, were subjected to egregious sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.  The department’s complaint names four individuals as defendants:  Thong Cao, who manages the rental properties and does business as Cao Properties and Rentals; Mai Cao; Van Le; and Tong Nguyen.  Each of the defendants owns or previously owned one or more of the properties where the illegal conduct occurred.

 

Today’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, arose from two complaints that former tenants filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  The lawsuit alleges that Thong Cao sexually harassed female residents at the rental properties from at least 2010 to 2014.  According to the complaint, Thong Cao engaged in harassment that included, among other things, making unwelcome sexual advances and comments, engaging in unwanted sexual touching, and evicting tenants who refused to engage in sexual conduct with him. 

 

“No woman should have to endure sexual harassment in order to remain in her home,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Sexual harassment in housing is unacceptable and illegal, and landlords should be on notice that the Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act to combat this type of discrimination and to obtain relief for its victims.”

 

“Property owners and managers who use their position to seek sexual favors are not only violating a woman’s housing rights, they are creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to work with the Justice Department to take action to ensure that individuals that provide housing meet their obligation to comply with federal fair housing laws.”

 

In October, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced the Sex Harassment Initiative (SHI). The initiative specifically seeks to increase the Department’s efforts to protect individuals from harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security guards, and other employees and representatives of rental property owners.

 

The Justice Department has filed or settled six sexual harassment cases since January 20, 2017, and has recovered over $1 million for victims of sexual harassment in housing.

 

Today’s lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties 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 operated by Thong Cao, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, can contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line:

 

  • English language:  Call 1-800-896-7743, then press 1 to continue in English and select mailbox 994 to leave a message; or
  • Spanish language:  Call 1-800-896-7743, then press 2 to continue in Spanish and select mailbox 3 to leave a message.

 

Individuals can also report sexual harassment and other forms of housing discrimination by e-mailing the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov.

Updated December 19, 2017