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What Is Landlord Sexual Harassment?
Tenants have the right to live in their home free from harassment and discrimination. Unfortunately, many landlords abuse their inherent power by subjecting their tenants to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment includes inappropriate comments, behavior, or touching, and is illegal under Washington State law.
Tenants who have been subjected to sexual harassment have the right to seek justice for the abuse they’ve experienced. Whether you were subjected to sexual assault, exploitation, or harassment Washington Law Center will hold these perpetrators accountable. Speak with one of our experienced attorneys to find out whether you have grounds for a viable lawsuit.
Laws Related To Landlord Sexual Harassment and Sexual Discrimination
Specifically, RCW 49.60.030 provides the right for a landlord to be free from discrimination because of gender. The right to be free from discrimination includes the right to engage in real estate transactions without discrimination.
The Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”) allows for a cause of action against landlords for sexual harassment or exploitation. A plaintiff must prove that:
- The landlord’s conduct was unwelcome;
- The conduct was because of tenant’s gender;
- The landlord’s conduct affected the terms, conditions, and privileges of the rental property, including tenants use and enjoyment of the property; and
- The harassment was imputable to the landlord.
Washington Landlord Sexual Discrimination Case Example:
Our courts both locally and nationally have interpreted discrimination laws in this context. In Tafoya v. State Human Rights Comm’n, 177 Wn. App. 216, 311 P.3d 70 (2013), Tafoya was a residential tenant who was a victim of sexual discrimination by her landlord. She filed a complaint for sex discrimination in housing under WLAD. The court found in favor of Tafoya and awarded actual and compensatory damages.
The landlord argued he did not violate any law because (1) he rented the property to tenant and did not prevent her from using it, and (2) his conduct was not sufficiently severe or pervasive to be considered sexual harassment. The court rejected the landlord’s arguments and found for the tenant.
The court established the applicable standard from the standards established in employment discrimination cases. The judge relied on the test for sexual harassment in employment from Supreme Court case Glasgow v. Georgia–Pacific Corp., 103 Wash.2d 401, 406–07, 693 P.2d 708 (1985).
Under Glasgow, the four necessary elements of a sexual harassment claim are:
- the harassment was unwelcome,
- the harassment was because of sex,
- the harassment affected the terms and conditions of employment, and
- the harassment was imputed to the employer.
Because Washington’s test for sexual harassment in employment discrimination encompasses the federal requirements for sexual harassment in housing, the judge in Tafoya properly applied the Glasgow four-part test to determine whether a tenant has established sexual harassment in housing.
After analyzing the four elements the court concluded that as a matter of law, sexual harassment is an actionable claim under the WLAD when the sexual harassment interferes with the terms, conditions, and privileges of a rental agreement by preventing the use and enjoyment of property.
Landlord Sexual Harassment Case Examples Across The United States
In Sellers v. Wesley, No. 14-cv-422 (M.D. N.C. July 2, 2015), a manager and an inspector of a Section 8 housing choice voucher program sexually harassed female applicants and participants of the program. They made unwelcome sexual comments and advances, touched women inappropriately, and demanded sexual acts in exchange for passing a home inspection or moving up on a waitlist. They also refused to give a voucher to an applicant who would not perform sexual acts. The manager and inspector were subsequently fired and the corporate defendant settled the claims for $2.7 million.
Further, in United States v. Thong Cao, No. 17-cv-01310 (D. Kan. Mar. 29, 2018), tenants complained against a landlord for sexual harassment, including touching and groping their bodies, breasts and buttocks, making unwelcome comments about their bodies, and asking them for sex. Some victims also reported that if they were behind on their rent, the landlord would offer to reduce or excuse their late rent in exchange for sex and that he evicted tenants who refused his sexual advances. The settlement agreement required the landlord to sell all of its rental properties and pay $155,000 to the tenants he harassed.
In, United States v. Waterbury, No. 18-cv-440 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 9, 2019), tenants complained against landlord for unwelcome sexual comments to female applicants and tenants, touching or groping female applicants and tenants, demanding that female applicants and tenants engage in sexual acts with him to rent or continue renting an apartment, offering to reduce rent or security deposits in exchange for sexual acts, refusing to make repairs in units with female tenants who rejected his advances, and forcing female applicants and tenants to have sexual intercourse with him. The settlement agreement required the landlord to hire someone else to manage his rental properties and pay a total of $800,000 for the tenants he harassed.
Can I Be Compensated For The Landlord Sexual Harassment I’ve Experienced?
In Washington, tenants who suffered harm as a result of their landlord’s sexual harassment are entitled to recover actual damages, emotional damages and may recover their reasonable attorneys’ fees spent in prosecuting their case. See Tafoya v. State Human Rights Comm’n, 177 Wn. App. 216, 311 P.3d 70 (2013); RCW 49.60.309.
Let Us Handle Your Landlord Sexual Harassment Case
You should be free of harassment and discrimination. The enjoyment of your property is a right and when those rights are violated you are entitled to damages. Please call the experienced attorneys at Washington Law Center for a free case review.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ashton Dennis is a litigation and trial attorney at Washington Law Center focused on representing individuals and families who have suffered a serious personal injury or wrongful death. He was named one of the “Top 40 Under 40” by the National Trial Lawyers of Washington State and one of the “Premier 100” trial attorneys by the American Academy of Trial Lawyers in Washington. Click here to learn more about Ashton.