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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Kanawha County, West Virginia, Property Manager and Owner to Pay $120,000 to Settle Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed by Justice Department

The Justice Department announced today that the owner and former property manager of Perkins Parke Apartments (Perkins Parke) in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, have agreed to pay $120,000 in damages and civil penalties to settle a lawsuit alleging that three former agents sexually harassed and retaliated against female tenants in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

The department’s complaint, filed in November 2014, alleged that Perkins Parke’s district manager, Anthony James, and maintenance worker, Christopher T. James, sexually harassed female tenants at the complex, and that Perkins Parke’s site manager, Kisha James, failed to take appropriate steps when tenants complained about the harassment.  The complaint alleged that the harassment included entering the residences of female tenants without permission or notice; coercing female tenants to engage in unwelcome sexual acts; making unwelcome sexual comments and unwelcome sexual advances to female tenants; subjecting female tenants to unwanted sexual touching and other unwanted sexual acts; and taking adverse actions against female residents when they refused the sexual advances or reported the unwelcome conduct.  This lawsuit arose as a result of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by five tenants.  After an investigation of the complaints, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and referred the case to Justice Department.

The settlement, which is subject to approval by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of West Virginia, requires Perkins’ Parke former property manager, Encore Management Company Inc., and the property’s owner, Perkins Parke LP, to pay $110,000 to eleven victims of sexual harassment and $10,000 to the United States as a civil penalty.  The settlement resolves the lawsuit with respect to Encore Management Company Inc. and Perkins Parke LP, but not the individual defendants. 

“Women and their families should not be subjected to sexual harassment in their homes,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Civil Rights Division.  “The Civil Rights Division will continue to vindicate the rights of those who are subject to sexual harassment.”

“Few things are more fundamental to success and happiness than having a safe place to live” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia.  “Everyone has a right to live in a safe environment, free from harassment of any kind.  Put simply, apartment owners must ensure that their managers and staff respect these basic rights and understand that violations will not be tolerated.”

“Women trying to provide a home for their families should not have to suffer the indignity of having to submit to unwanted sexual demands in order to keep that housing,” said Gustavo Velasquez, Assistant Secretary for HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office.  “Today's settlement sends a loud and clear message to property owners and managers that HUD and the Justice Department are committed to addressing practices that violate the rights of women.”

Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Department of Justice.  The federal Fair Housing Act 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 www.justice.gov/crt.  Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or through its website at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp.

Updated September 30, 2015