Justice Department Settles Sexual Harassment and Race Discrimination Lawsuit Against Manager and Owners of Virginia Rental Properties
The Justice Department today announced that Gary T. Price, a manager of rental properties in and around Harrisonburg, Virginia, together with owners of the properties, Alberta Lowery and GTP Investment Properties, LLC, will pay $335,000 to resolve allegations that Price sexually harassed multiple female tenants and discriminated in housing on the basis of race in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
The consent decree, which must still be approved by the court, will resolve a complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia alleging that Price violated the Fair Housing Act by making unwelcome sexual comments and advances toward female tenants, offering housing benefits in exchange for sexual acts, and taking or threatening adverse housing actions against women who refused his sexual demands. The complaint also alleges that Price violated the Act by using racial slurs with respect to tenants and tenants’ guests, and by prohibiting or attempting to prohibit tenants from entertaining African-American guests in their homes because of the guests’ race. Alberta Lowery and GTP Investment Properties, LLC are named as defendants in the lawsuit because they are owners of properties at which the discriminatory conduct took place and Price was acting as their agent when he engaged in the illegal acts.
“No woman should ever have to endure abusive and demeaning sexual harassment to secure housing for herself or her family, nor should any individual be subjected to vile racial harassment or other race discrimination related to housing,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Such conduct is both illegal and reprehensible, and the Justice Department will work vigorously and tirelessly to combat these types of discrimination and obtain relief for victims.”
“Our office has prioritized combatting sexual harassment in housing, as is evidenced in this significant investigation and resolution,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar. “We will continue to seek to end this illegal practice and recognize the difficult challenges faced by women, particularly in today’s trying times, who are simply seeking to provide basic needs for their families. Today’s settlement ought to send a strong message that we will not tolerate harassment and discrimination in housing and will continue to closely partner with the Civil Rights Division to enforce the Fair Housing Act.”
Under the consent decree, the defendants will pay $330,000 to compensate eight victims of discrimination already identified by the Justice Department, together with any additional individuals who have been harmed by defendants’ discriminatory conduct. In addition, defendants must pay $5,000 as a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest. The consent decree also bars Gary Price from participating in the management of rental properties in the future and requires defendants to take other steps to prevent future discrimination.
Individuals who believe they may have been victims of sexual harassment, race discrimination or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings owned or managed by Gary T. Price, Alberta Lowery or GTP Investment Properties, LLC, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, can contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line toll free, at 1-833-591-0291 and, after selecting English or Spanish, press 22 to leave a message in the voicemail box related to U.S. v. Gary Price, GTP Properties, and Alberta Lowery.
Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin, and disability. Sexual harassment is a form of prohibited sex discrimination under this law. The Justice Department's Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The Attorney General recently reaffirmed this commitment by directing the Justice Department to deploy all available enforcement tools against anyone who tries to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing. The goal of the department’s initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing. As part of the initiative, the Justice Department developed a public service announcement and formed a joint task force with Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to combat sexual harassment in housing.
Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Department of Justice has filed 19 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing. The Justice Department has filed or settled 24 sexual harassment cases since January 2017, providing for over $3.1 million for victims of sexual harassment in housing.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the civil rights laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Individuals who believe they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other forms of housing discrimination can submit a report to the Department of Justice by calling 1-800-896-7743 or visiting civilrights.justice.gov, or to the HUD by calling 1-800-669-9777 or visiting HUD’s website.