Monday, December 21, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Caroline Peattie, Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California
(415) 483-7552, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California and Client Settle Sexual Harassment Complaint Against Landlord
San Rafael, CA – Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California (FHANC) and one of its clients settled a sexual harassment and disability discrimination complaint that had been filed with the Housing and Urban Development’s Department of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity against Turina Associates, LP et al.
Ana Hernandez – an alias to protect her anonymity – alleged that she and her adult children were injured by discriminatory acts of Turina Associates, LP, the owners of the property; EAH, Inc., the managers of the property; and its agents. Specifically, Ms. Hernandez alleged that the Respondents violated the Fair Housing Act on the basis of sex and disability by permitting a member of EAH maintenance staff to sexually harass her, engaging in retaliatory acts after she reported the harassment, denying her accommodation request, terminating her tenancy, and making discriminatory statements.
“We treat complaints of sexual harassment with the utmost seriousness,” said Caroline Peattie, Executive Director of FHANC. “It’s truly damaging psychologically to experience sexual harassment in the place where you live. Your home should be the one place where you feel safe, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to come forward with an accusation of sexual harassment because of the stigma connected to these complaints, not to mention that all too often, people deny that it occurred, causing further psychological damage.”
Ms. Hernandez is a single mother with disabilities who lived at the San Rafael property with her adult children from 2006 until the beginning of 2019. In 2018, Ms. Hernandez contacted FHANC explaining that she had become romantically involved with an EAH maintenance worker who subsequently became abusive toward her. She said she attempted to end the abusive relationship several times but found it extremely difficult to do so because of his control over her tenancy based on his employment with the management company. Ms. Hernandez maintained that throughout their relationship, he subjected her to abuse, and she sought counseling from a domestic violence counselor beginning in September 2016. In June 2018, after another assault, she reported the abuse to the police and was granted a three-year criminal protective order against him.
She said she complained multiple times to the manager about the maintenance worker’s abuse, disclosing her relationship with him, and that she shared the protective order and concerns for her family’s safety and continued tenancy. Ms. Hernandez asserts that the manager was dismissive of her allegations and even asked if she had done anything to provoke him. After failing to adequately address her concerns, EAH ultimately served her with an eviction notice alleging harassment of other tenants, which she disputed. Despite FHANC’s intervention on behalf of Ms. Hernandez and her request for additional time to move as a reasonable accommodation due to her disability, EAH denied her request and forced her to move out by January 30, 2019.
Based on information obtained during counseling sessions with Ms. Hernandez, documents provided to FHANC, and interviews with another witness who made similar allegations against EAH’s agents, FHANC filed a complaint with HUD’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Department in December 2018. HUD investigated her claims and FHANC ultimately negotiated a settlement agreement with the Respondents in which the owners agreed to pay Ms. Hernandez $8,667 and FHANC $4,333 in damages. In addition, Turina and EAH agreed to review and revise their rules, policies, and procedures regarding responding to and investigating claims of potential sexual harassment of tenants and applicants, to notify their tenants of the policy revisions in English and Spanish, to post HUD’s Fair Housing posters in common areas, and to have the property’s managers attend fair housing training.
“I really appreciate the help I got from Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California,” said Ms. Hernandez. “The housing counselors at FHANC supported me and helped me during the whole process. The reason I came forward with my complaint was so that this wouldn’t happen to anyone else. It’s scary to speak out and without the help of the FHANC staff, I couldn’t have done it. I want other women who are victims of abuse to know that there are people out there who can help. I was grateful to have people on my side who listened and believed me.”
Note: This material is based on work supported by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under FHIP EOI Grant FEOI19005. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of HUD.
Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California is a non-profit organization serving several Bay Area counties that provides free counseling, enforcement, mediation, and legal or administrative referrals to persons experiencing housing discrimination. Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California also offers foreclosure prevention counseling, pre-purchase education, seminars to help housing providers fully understand fair housing law, and education programs for tenants and the community at large. Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California is a HUD-Certified Housing Counseling Agency. Please call Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California at (415) 457-5025 or TDD: (800) 735-2922 for more information.