Ten victims of sexual harassment at a residential hotel in Portland, Oregon won a $127,000 settlement from the hotel owner after filing complaints under the Fair Housing Act. The settlement includes $25,000 in attorney's fees.
The Joyce Hotel is a residential hotel. Many of its tenants were referred by nonprofit homeless advocacy groups who provide payment vouchers. Many of the residents have no other housing choice. The ten plaintiffs, eight women and two men, in the suit lived at the Joyce Hotel in early 1994. During that time, the female tenants were continuously subject to unwelcome sexual comments, advances, and requests for sexual favors by Ken Zipfel, the hotel's resident manager.
One complainant alleged that Zipfel grabbed her breasts and neck and offered her a better room if she would have sex with him. Another complainant said that Zipfel pulled her onto a bed and tried to remove her pants. Several other complainants related stories of Zipfel's requests or demands for sex in exchange for rent.
Although Zipfel was careful to make advances on the female tenants when they were alone, investigators from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) believed that the female tenants' stories were credible because of the many similarities. The plaintiffs filed complaints with HUD and also decided to pursue action in federal court. The US Attorney's Office in Portland, represented by Okianer Christian Dark and Ronald K. Silver, filed the complaint in October 1995. Zachary Zabinsky, a private attorney; and Robert Huggins and James Wrigley, of Multnomah County Legal Services, represented the plaintiffs in throughout the case. The plaintiffs claimed that Tom Weathers, the owner of the Joyce Hotel and several other residential hotels, either knew or should have known about the sexual harassment taking place. Zipfel, on the other hand, had disappeared and was found to have no significant assets.