Justice Department Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Owners and Managers of Rental Properties in Pennsylvania
The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Allen and Heidi Woodcock, owners and managers of rental properties in Oil City, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, alleges that Allen Woodcock sexually harassed a female tenant in April 2019 after he entered her home to perform maintenance. According to the complaint, Allen Woodcock touched the tenant’s body without her consent and forcibly tried to kiss her, and the Woodcocks evicted the tenant after she reported the harassment to Heidi Woodcock.
“People should never have to endure sexual harassment in their home, where they should feel safe and secure,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act against landlords who engage in this kind of abusive and illegal behavior.”
“Combatting sexual harassment in housing is a high priority at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing Jeanine Worden. “This is an example of how HUD and the Justice Department work together to enforce the Fair Housing Act.”
“Sexual harassment in housing is illegal,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “Landlords, property managers or anyone else with control over housing should recognize by the filing of this lawsuit that we take action to combat such despicable conduct.”
The lawsuit arose from a complaint that the former tenant filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department.
Today’s lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victim and a court order barring future discrimination. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct; the allegations must be proven in court.
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 21 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.
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 who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings owned or managed by Allen and Heidi Woodcock, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, should call the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at email@example.com, or submit a report online.
Individuals can also report sexual harassment and other forms of housing discrimination by contacting HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a HUD complaint online.