Justice Department Sues Kansas City, Kansas, Public Housing Agency for Sexual Harassment
The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City, Kansas, Housing Authority (KCKHA) and its former hearing officer, Victor L. Hernandez. The lawsuit alleges that Hernandez sexually harassed a female public housing applicant and a female public housing tenant, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, alleges that Hernandez subjected these two women to unwanted sexual conduct as a condition for favorable hearing decisions, including asking them sexual questions, showing pornographic pictures and videos, making explicit sexual comments and exposing himself. The complaint alleges that Hernandez engaged in this conduct while exercising his authority as an employee of KCKHA.
“No one, including those who seek public assistance for housing benefits, should be subjected to sexual harassment, particularly by the very people tasked with providing critical assistance,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue its vigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act against those who abuse their power and authority.”
“The Fair Housing Act is about more than providing a shelter,” said U.S. Attorney Barry R. Grissom of the District of Kansas. “It’s about equal opportunity and equal justice as well. Sexual harassment cannot be tolerated.”
The lawsuit arose from complaints filed by the two women about Hernandez’s conduct with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After HUD investigated the complaints, it issued a charge of discrimination and the matter was referred to the Justice Department.
“Women have a hard enough time finding a decent affordable place to live without having their access to that housing conditioned upon submitting to unwanted sexual advances,” said Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez of HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office. “HUD applauds the action the Justice Department is taking in this matter and remains committed to working together to protect the housing rights of women when those rights are violated.”
The suit seeks monetary damages to compensate victims and a court order barring future discrimination and requiring additional preventive measures.
The complaint is an allegation of unlawful conduct. The allegations must still be proven in federal court.
Individuals who believe they were victims of the defendants’ conduct or who may have other information related to this lawsuit should contact the Justice Department toll-free at 1-800-896-7743, mailbox 8, or e-mail the department at email@example.com.
The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Persons who believe that they have experienced unlawful housing discrimination elsewhere can contact the department at 1-800-896-7743, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.