The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Gary Walden; the Estate of Tina Walden; Walden Homes LLC, dba Walden Rentals; and 973 Chestnut Ridge Road Inc. The lawsuit alleges that female tenants in residential rental properties owned and managed by the Waldens have been subjected to egregious sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, alleges that Gary Walden engaged in egregious acts of sexual harassment against multiple female tenants at the residential rental properties that he and his wife – the late Tina Walden – owned and managed in the Morgantown, West Virginia, metropolitan area. The suit also alleges that Tina Walden failed to take appropriate steps when residents complained about the harassment. In the complaint, the United States alleges that the harassment by Gary Walden included engaging in unwanted and unwelcome sex acts with female tenants; engaging in unwanted sexual touching and groping; making unwelcome sexual comments and verbal advances; conditioning or offering tangible housing benefits to female tenants in exchange for performance of sex acts on him or his maintenance workers; entering the apartments of female tenants without permission or notice to harass them sexually; and taking adverse actions against female tenants when they refused or objected to his sexual advances or objected to continuing to grant sexual favors.
“No woman should have to suffer sexual harassment in her home or live in fear of retaliation when she reports such heinous acts of discrimination,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Sexual abuse has no place in a civilized society, and the Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act by safeguarding the rights of tenants and holding perpetrators accountable.”
“We always aggressively advocate for fair housing for everyone, but the allegations in this matter are especially disturbing,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II of the Northern District of West Virginia. “Making housing contingent upon performing sexual acts will not be tolerated and the landlords in this case will now have to answer for their abhorrent conduct. We'll stand with the female victims in this case and make sure that their rights are fully protected.”
“When a woman is subjected to unwanted sexual advances in her home, it makes her a victim in the place where she should feel the safest and most secure,” said Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Gustavo Velasquez of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “HUD will continue to stand with the Justice Department to protect the housing rights of women whenever those rights are violated.”
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination. The complaint is an allegation 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 and housing discrimination at rental dwellings owned and/or operated by Gary and/or Tina Walden, or elsewhere, can contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743 or e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.