Eight California Women Get $,342, 000 for Sexual Harassment In Largest Settlement Under 1988 Fair Housing Act

The U.S. Department of Justice announced a January settlement of $387,000 --
the largest ever obtained by the federal government since the Fair Housing Act was amended in 1988. The consent order was approved by a federal district Judge in Sacramento, California, allowing the federal government to recover monetary damages on behalf of victims of discrimination and civil penalties of $45,000 for violation of the act.

The original complaint, filed on March 1, 1990, in federal District Court in Sacramento, alleged that the resident manager of Fairfield North Apartments in Fairfield, California subjected female tenants to extensive and unwelcome sexual harassment. The complaint further alleged that the owners and managers knew, or should have known, of this sexual harassment and did nothing to stop it.

"No American should have to endure sexual harassment or unwanted advances for any reason. To be subjected to sexual harassment -- and even assault, as in this case -- in return for housing, violates all standards of decency. We intend to continue vigorous enforcement of the Fair Housing Act so that others will not be victimized this way," said Attorney General William P. Barr.

The consent order requires the defendants to pay $342,000 in damages to eight women who are former or current tenants of Fairfield North Apartments. The women allegedly were subjected to sexual harassment at the apartment complex in the form of verbal harassment, sexual advances, sexual propositions, invasions of privacy, and sexual assault.

John R. Dunne, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division, said of the case, "The conduct challenged in this case was unusually egregious. Our primary objective was to ensure that the victims received fair compensation for the injuries they suffered. We recognize, of course, that monetary payments may never completely restore the loss suffered by these women, but we believe that this settlement provides a fair and equitable legal resolution."

The order further requires the defendants to comply with the Fair Housing Act in the future and to take several actions designed to ensure compliance with the Act, such as attending a training session conducted by a local fair housing organization.

"We will continue to seek redress, for victims of unlawful sexual harassment in housing, and we hope that our enforcement program willl deter such conduct in the future," said Dunne.

The federal suit was the first suit in which the Department of Justice alleged that a pattern or practice of sexual harassment by providers of housing violated the prohibition against sex discrimination in the Fair Housing Act.

Named as defendants in the case; were: (1) Fairfield North, a limited partnership based in Alameda County, California, (2) Dana Properties, Inc., a California corporation, (3) Mark Chim, President of Dana Properties, Inc., and a Fairfield North general partner, and (4) James Skinner, the former resident manager of Fairfield North Apartments.

In agreeing to the entry of the consent order, the defendants did not admit to the allegations made in the case. The case was consolidated with a related case brought in November 1989 by 13 other women and their children who also are current or former tenants of the apartment complex. In their private lawsuit, the women and children alleged they were victims of similar sexual harassment. Even though their private lawsuit was previously settled in agreements which required the defendants to pay almost $572,000, today's monetary settlement of the government's suit will be added to the settlement of the private case.