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Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Justice Department Resolves Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Massachusetts Landlord

The Justice Department announced today that it has secured a $450,000 settlement resolving allegations that Salazar Dos Santos, a Chicopee, Massachusetts, landlord, violated the Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing female tenants for at least 11 years. The settlement also resolves claims against the Trusts of Salazar Dos Santos and America Dos Santos, which held the properties where the harassment occurred.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit, filed in 2019, alleged that from at least 2008, Dos Santos subjected multiple female tenants to unwelcome sexual contact, which included coercing them to engage in sex acts, physically sexually assaulting them, exposing himself and locking them in his office to sexually assault them. The lawsuit asserted that Dos Santos implicitly offered to provide relief from rental payment obligations in exchange for engaging in sexual acts with him and threatened tenants who resisted or objected to his unwelcome sexual harassment. It is further alleged that some victims were sexually harassed dozens of times for months (one tenant on more than 40 occasions), and that Dos Santos evicted some tenants after they refused his advances.

“Coercing tenants to engage in sex acts and retaliating against those who resist are among the most egregious forms of sexual harassment that we see today,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department remains committed to combating sexual harassment in housing, and securing relief for those whose lives have been upended by such dehumanizing and unlawful conduct.”

“Sexual harassment and the conduct alleged here is repugnant and completely unacceptable. Stable and safe housing is fundamental for positive outcomes in life. Insidiously, sexual harassment and violations in the context of housing often target vulnerable tenants who fear eviction and homelessness,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins for the District of Massachusetts. “Although not present in this case, there are also times that immigration status is the manipulation utilized to target and victimize vulnerable tenants. Under the Fair Housing Act, the federal government has the authority to investigate and hold to account predatory landlords and property managers who engage in this despicable conduct. The District of Massachusetts is committed to actively and aggressively investigating these types of cases. Last, but certainly not least, I want to commend the brave women who came forward in this matter.”

Under the proposed consent decree agreed upon by all parties, subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the defendants are required to pay a total of $425,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the harassment and a $25,000 civil penalty. The consent decree also bars future discrimination and retaliation, requires that property management responsibilities be turned over to an independent manager, mandates the implementation of a sexual harassment policy, complaint procedure, and Fair Housing Act training and requires detailed reporting regarding property management activities and compliance with the terms of the consent decree. The consent decree permanently bars Dos Santos from participating in any property management responsibilities at any residential rental property.

The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country. The goal of the department’s 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 department has filed 30 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $10 million for victims of such harassment.

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. The Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting people from sexual misconduct. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at justice.gov/crt. Individuals may report sexual harassment or other forms of housing discrimination by calling the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-833-591-0291, or submitting a report online. Individuals may also report such discrimination by contacting HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint online.

Fair Housing
Press Release Number: 
Updated May 3, 2023