Justice Department Resolves Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Massachusetts Landlord and His Employee
The Justice Department announced today that it has secured a settlement resolving allegations that Worcester, Massachusetts, landlord Mohan Prashad and his maintenance worker, David Besaw, violated the Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing female tenants. The settlement also resolves claims against Lanaton LLC and Savton LLC, which, along with Prashad, owned the properties where the harassment occurred.
Under the consent decree, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, defendants are required to pay $65,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the harassment and a $10,000 civil penalty, and vacate a judgment that defendants had obtained against a former tenant in housing court. The consent decree bars future discrimination and retaliation, requires that property management responsibilities be turned over to one or more individuals approved by the United States, mandates the implementation of a sexual harassment policy and 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 also bars Prashad and Besaw from participating in property management responsibilities at residential rental properties.
“Sexually harassing tenants in their homes and retaliating against those who lodge complaints are egregious forms of sex discrimination that violate the Fair Housing Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to safeguarding the rights of vulnerable tenants who are subjected to sexual harassment or retaliatory evictions because of their sex.”
“The sexual harassment of tenants is an appalling abuse of economic and social power that warrants serious consequences,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell of the District of Massachusetts. “Everyone has a right to feel safe and secure in their home, and the Fair Housing Act gives us the tools to enforce that for tenants. My office will continue to enforce these important civil rights laws to protect vulnerable individuals, hold violators accountable and secure justice for victims.”
The lawsuit, filed in 2019, alleged that since at least 2009, Prashad subjected female tenants to harassment that included making unwelcome sexual advances and comments, making unscheduled and frequent visits to certain tenant units without legitimate property management reasons for the visits, and taking adverse actions against tenants who resisted his sexual overtures. The complaint further alleged that Besaw sexually harassed and assaulted tenants and that Prashad, after receiving notice of Besaw’s harassment, retaliated against one tenant by filing an eviction action against her and failed to take action to prevent Besaw from engaging in additional sexual harassment.
The case was jointly litigated by the Civil Rights Division and the Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. 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 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 of Justice has filed 23 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $4.9 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. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.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.