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Justice Department Settles Housing Discrimination Lawsuit in Waterloo

WASHINGTON ñ The Justice Department Wednesday announced a $95,000 settlement to resolve a lawsuit alleging that the former manager of Park Towers Apartments in Waterloo, Iowa, sexually harassed female tenants at the complex.

The lawsuit alleges that Michael Nieman, the former on-site manager of Park Towers, sexually harassed female tenants in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The lawsuit further alleges that Elders Inc., which owned the building, and J.S. Property Management L.C., which managed the property, were liable for Nieman’s actions. Since the lawsuit was filed in 2010, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, all of the defendants have ceased to work in the residential rental business.

The consent decree, pending approval by the court, will require the defendants to pay $80,000 to 10 victims and $15,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. The consent decree also prohibits the defendants from engaging in discrimination and contains a provision preventing Nieman from returning to work in the management, rental or maintenance of rental housing.

“Sexual harassment by a landlord or property manager violates a woman’s right to feel safe and secure in her home,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This settlement sends the message that such harassment will not be tolerated, and that the Civil Rights Division will aggressively pursue landlords who engage in it.”

“This order ensures that Mr. Nieman will never again be in a position to harass and mistreat Iowans in need of housing,” said U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Stephanie Rose. “It also serves as a warning to other landlords that they will be held accountable if they engage in or enable others to engage in acts of sexual harassment against tenants.”

This lawsuit arose as a result of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) by two former tenants. After investigating the complaints, HUD issued a charge of discrimination and referred the case to the Department of Justice.

“Harassment victims are not alone in the fight to protect their housing rights. HUD and the Department of Justice work vigorously to protect women and enforce their right to live free from discrimination,” said John TrasviÒa, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.|

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