The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit against Joseph Earl Lucas of Amesville, Ohio, for sexually harassing female tenants and housing applicants in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Lucas has owned and managed more than 70 residential rental properties in and around Athens County, Ohio.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, alleges that since at least 2004, Lucas requested sex acts from female tenants and applicants; subjected female tenants to unwelcome sexual touching; made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to female tenants and their female guests; repeatedly drove by and entered female tenants’ homes without their permission; demanded that female tenants engage in sex acts with him in order not to lose housing; and offered to reduce rent or excuse late or unpaid rent in exchange for sex acts. The lawsuit also alleges that Lucas initiated evictions or threatened to evict female tenants who refused his sexual advances.
“No one should have to experience sexual harassment in their home or their community,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce fair housing laws to hold accountable landlords who prey on vulnerable tenants and housing applicants.”
“This lawsuit sends a message that this deplorable behavior has no place in our communities and that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will vigorously enforce federal civil rights laws to stop this conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio. “No one should be forced to endure any form of sexual harassment, let alone in their efforts to maintain housing.”
The lawsuit, which is the result of a joint investigative effort with the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG), seeks monetary damages to compensate persons harmed by the alleged harassment, a civil penalty to vindicate the public interest and a court order barring future discrimination.
“Every person deserves to feel safe in housing without facing the threat of being sexually harassed or abused by a landlord,” said HUD Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis. “Victims should not hesitate to report such harassment and abuse to law enforcement authorities. HUD OIG will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to hold housing providers accountable for this type of horrible conduct.”
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. It also prohibits sexual harassment, a form of sex discrimination. Individuals who believe they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental properties owned or managed by Joseph Lucas, or who have information that may be relevant to this case, may contact the Justice Department by calling the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Civil Rights Tipline 513 684-2055, emailing [email protected] or completing a Civil Rights referral form at www.justice.gov/usao-sdoh/file/1513341/download.
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 initiative seeks to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers and other people who have control over housing. Since launching the initiative in October 2017, the department has filed 35 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $10.8 million for victims of such harassment.