LOS ANGELES – The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit alleging the managers and owners of two apartment buildings in the Westlake neighborhood in Los Angeles violated federal law by sexually harassing their female tenants for more than a decade.
The complaint, filed in United States District Court in Los Angeles, alleges that Filomeno Hernandez, Ramin Akhavan, Bonnie Brae Investment Services LLC, and Westlake Property Services LLC violated the Fair Housing Act. The defendants manage or own the properties at issue in this case – 729 S. Bonnie Brae St. and 720 S. Westlake Ave. – which are located near MacArthur Park in the Westlake District of the City of Los Angeles.
Hernandez, the locations’ property manager, sexually harassed female residents at the rental properties from at least 2006 through the present, the lawsuit alleges. The complaint alleges that Hernandez engaged in harassment that included, among other things, frequently and repeatedly engaging in unwanted sexual touching, including sexual assault; making unwelcome sexual advances and comments; offering to reduce rent or excusing late or unpaid rent in exchange for sex; and entering the homes of female tenants without their consent.
“Sexual harassment of vulnerable women is unacceptable, and we will not tolerate this behavior by any landlord or property manager,” said Nick Hanna, the United States Attorney for the Central District of California. “Those who abuse their positions of power will be held accountable under the Fair Housing Act.”
“No woman should have to endure sexual harassment, especially in her own home,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Sexual harassment in housing is unacceptable and illegal, and the Justice Department will continue vigorously to enforce the Fair Housing Act to combat this type of discrimination and to obtain relief for its victims.”
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties, and a court order barring future discrimination. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct, which must be proven in federal court.
In October 2017, the Department of Justice launched an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing. In April 2018, the Department announced the nationwide rollout of the initiative. Since launching the initiative, the Department of Justice has filed 13 lawsuits alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing.
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 http://www.justice.gov/crt. More information about the Civil Rights Section, Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/civil-division/civil-rights.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings operated or owned by Filomeno Hernandez or Ramin Akhavan, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, can contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line:
- English language: Call 1-800-896-7743, then press 1 to continue in English and select mailbox 9992 to leave a message; or
- Spanish language: Call 1-800-896-7743, then press 2 to continue in Spanish and select mailbox 6 to leave a message.
Individuals can also report sexual harassment and other forms of housing discrimination by e-mailing the Justice Department at this form.