U.S. Attorney Announced Justice Department Settlement In Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Michigan Landlord
GRAND RAPIDS – The Justice Department announced today that it has secured an agreement to resolve a lawsuit alleging that Muskegon, Michigan, landlord Darrell Jones violated the Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing female tenants. The settlement also resolves claims against Fatima Jones and Jones Investing, LLC, which, along with Jones, owned the properties where the harassment occurred.
“The sexual harassment of tenants is an intolerable abuse of power that violates federal civil rights laws,” said U.S. Attorney Mark A. Totten for the Western District of Michigan. “No one should have to endure harassment and discrimination, especially in their own homes. My office is committed to protecting the rights of vulnerable tenants and will continue to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act to combat discrimination and secure justice for victims.”
“The Fair Housing Act protects the rights of tenants to live in peace and security without the fear that their housing provider will sexually harass them,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to holding housing providers accountable for their unlawful behavior and seeking relief for survivors.”
Under the agreement, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, defendants are required to pay $155,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the harassment and pay a $10,000 civil penalty to the United States. The consent order also requires the defendants to:
- Retain an independent property manager to manage their rental properties for the duration of the order;
- Obtain fair housing training; and
- Implement non-discrimination policies and complaint procedures to prevent sexual harassment at their properties in the future.
“We admire the courageous women who spoke out to bring forth fair housing justice”, says Elizabeth Stoddard, Director of Advocacy of the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan. “In partnership with the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan, we see you and we hear you. We believe you and we stand with you. A woman’s home should be her safe place.”
The lawsuit, filed in June 2020, alleged that since at least 2008, Jones subjected female tenants to harassment that included making repeated and unwelcome sexual comments, touching tenants’ bodies without their consent, demanding sexual activity in exchange for rent and housing-related benefits, and taking adverse actions against tenants who resisted his sexual advances or complained about the harassment.
This case was referred to the Justice Department by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan and was litigated by attorneys in the department’s Civil Rights Division and the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The goal of the department’s 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 of Justice has filed 28 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered more than $9.8million for victims of such harassment.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which 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. Individuals may report sexual harassment or other forms of housing discrimination by calling the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-833-591-0291, or submitting a report online. Individuals may also report such discrimination by contacting HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint online.
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