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Press Release

Justice Department Secures Award Against Owner of Massachusetts Sober Homes for Sexual Harassment

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Defendant Offered to Reduce or Forgive Rent, Grant Extra House Privileges or Waive Security Deposits for Female Residents in Exchange for Engaging in Sexual Acts

Peter McCarthy, 51, of Lynn, Massachusetts, the owner of Steps to Solutions Inc., a group of residential sober homes, was found liable following a five-day jury trial. In August 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division filed a lawsuit alleging that McCarthy subjected female tenants to sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

“Sexual harassment of tenants is abhorrent, and the department stands committed to holding housing providers accountable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We commend the survivors who came forward to testify about the heinous conduct that they experienced. This verdict sends a message that there is no place in our society for landlords who abuse their position of power to prey on vulnerable people.”

“This defendant preyed on vulnerable women in recovery from addiction and forced them to choose between his sexual demands and keeping a roof over their heads. Housing is a fundamental need and every person has the right to feel safe and secure in their own home. No one should be denied housing because of their refusal to submit to unwanted sexual harassment and intimidation,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy for the District of Massachusetts. “This case should send a powerful message to all landlords that there are severe consequences to sexually exploiting tenants”

Since at least 2012 through 2021, McCarthy — the registered agent and sole officer of Steps to Solutions Inc. — sexually harassed residents of his sober homes by offering to reduce or forgive rent, granting extra house privileges or waiving security deposits in exchange for engaging in sex acts or sexually explicit photographs; and making unwanted sexual comments.

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 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 40 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $16.4 million for victims of such harassment.

Individuals who have information about this case can contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts by calling 617-748-3274, emailing or visiting the case webpage.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregory Dorchak, Michelle Leung and Eve Piemonte for the District of Massachusetts handled the matter, along with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division’s Housing Section.

Updated May 21, 2024

Civil Rights
Fair Housing
Press Release Number: 24-634