DAVENPORT – The Justice Department announced this week that it has secured an agreement to resolve a lawsuit alleging that Davenport, Iowa, landlord Juan Goitia violated the Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing female tenants. The settlement also resolves claims against 908 Bridge Cooperative which, along with Goitia, owned the properties where the harassment occurred.
Under the consent order, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, defendants are required to pay $135,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the harassment and pay a civil penalty to the United States. The consent order also:
– prohibits Goitia from continuing to manage rental housing;
– requires Goitia to retain an independent property manager to manage any rental properties he owns now or in the future; and
– requires defendants to obtain fair housing training and implement comprehensive non-discrimination policies and complaint procedures to prevent sexual harassment at their properties in the future.
“Sexual harassment by housing providers is an illegal and egregious abuse of power that deprives tenants of their right to be safe and secure in their homes,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to protecting the rights of vulnerable tenants subjected to sexual harassment and will continue to hold landlords accountable and obtain relief for survivors.”
The lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleged that since at least 2010, Goitia subjected female tenants to harassment that included making unwelcome sexual comments and advances, touching tenants’ bodies without their consent, entering the homes of female tenants without their consent and without prior notice, and taking adverse actions against tenants who resisted his sexual overtures or complained about the harassment.
This case was litigated by attorneys in the department’s Civil Rights Division and the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa. The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorneys’ 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 23 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $9.6 million 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.