Boston, Massachusetts - The Department of Justice Monday filed a lawsuit in the District of Massachusetts alleging that female tenants of residential rental properties in Worcester were subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation, in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. This is the 11th lawsuit alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in housing filed since the launch of the Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative in late 2017.
“Landlords or their employees who sexually harass tenants will be held accountable under the law by the Department of Justice,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband. “Such depraved conduct, targeting some of the most vulnerable in our communities, violates the Fair Housing Act and will not be tolerated. The Civil Rights Division will continue to enforce the law vigorously and work to secure justice for victims of these offenses.”
“No one should ever have to choose between housing and sexual harassment,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “Sexual harassment is illegal under the Fair Housing Act, and my office is committed to achieving justice and compensation for individuals whose civil rights have been violated. I encourage anyone who has been subjected to sexual harassment by his or her landlord or employee of a landlord to report it to my office.”
“Subjecting a person to sexual harassment not only violates the law, it robs that individual of the ability to feel safe and secure in the place they call home,” said Anna María Farías, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD applauds today’s action and will continue working in partnership with the Justice Department to address this form of discrimination.”
The lawsuit alleges that from at least 2009 through the present, Mohan Prashad sexually harassed female tenants of rental properties owned by Prashad, Savton LLC, and Lanaton LLC. Prashad is the sole agent for Savton LLC and Lanaton LLC. The complaint further alleges that David Besaw also harassed and assaulted female tenants. Besaw, a Level 3 registered sex offender in Massachusetts, has been employed by Prashad since at least 2014 to assist with the management and maintenance of his rental properties.
The complaint alleges that Prashad engaged in harassment that included making unwelcome sexual advances and comments; engaging in unwanted sexual touching; offering to grant tangible benefits — such as reducing rent amounts — in exchange for engaging in sexual acts; refusing to provide needed maintenance services or taking other adverse housing actions against female tenants who resisted or objected to his unwelcome sexual harassment; intimidating female tenants by monitoring them from outside their apartments or rooms; and, after receiving notice of Besaw’s sexual harassment of female tenants, failing to take any action to prevent Besaw from future sexual harassment. The complaint further alleges that Besaw subjected female tenants to unwelcome sexual contact including groping, sexual assault, and forced touching of their bodies, without consent; unwanted exposure to female tenants; making unwelcome sexual comments and sexual advances toward female tenants; and making intrusive, unannounced visits to female tenants’ units to conduct and further his sexual advances.
In October 2017, the Justice Department launched an initiative to combat sexual harassment in housing. In April 2018, the Department announced the nationwide rollout of the initiative, including three major components: an outreach toolkit to leverage the Department’s nationwide network of U.S. Attorney’s Offices, a public awareness campaign, including the release of a national Public Service Announcement and a new joint Task Force with HUD to combat sexual harassment in housing.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination.