The Justice Department announced today that it has reached an agreement to resolve a lawsuit alleging that Filomeno Hernandez, a property manager of residential apartment buildings near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles, violated the federal Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing female tenants since at least 2006.
Today’s settlement also resolves claims against Ramin Akhavan, Bonnie Brae Investments LLC and Westlake Property Services LLC, which managed or owned the rental properties where the harassment took place.
Under the consent decree, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, defendants are required to pay a total of $105,000, which includes $100,000 in monetary damages to women who were harmed as a result of the sexual harassment, and a $5,000 civil penalty. The consent decree also bars future discrimination, prevents Hernandez from participating in the rental or management of residential properties in the future, requires that Hernandez vacate the premises and leave his post as on-site property manager, mandates Fair Housing Act training and requires extensive monitoring and reporting regarding property management activities and compliance with the terms of the consent decree.
The department’s lawsuit, filed in 2020, alleged that for more than a decade Hernandez subjected female tenants to harassment that included unwanted sexual touching, including sexual assault, frequent unwelcome sexual advances and comments, offers to reduce rent or excuse late or unpaid rent in exchange for sex and unannounced visits to the homes of female tenants without their consent to make sexual advances. The apartment buildings that Hernandez managed are located at 729 South Bonnie Brae Street and 720 Westlake Avenue in Los Angeles, near MacArthur Park.
“Sexual harassment of vulnerable tenants is an egregious violation of the Fair Housing Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to pursuing predatory landlords and property managers and to ensuring that no individual is subject to housing discrimination because of their sex.”
“The right to be free from sexual harassment in one’s own home is a vital federal civil right,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison for the Central District of California. “This settlement shows our commitment to vigorously enforcing federal civil rights laws and holding accountable those who discriminate against others in violation of the Fair Housing Act.”
The Justice Department enforces the federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. The department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The goal of the department’s initiative is to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing. Since launching the initiative in October 2017, the Department of Justice has filed 21 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $3.9 million for victims of such harassment.
Individuals may report sexual harassment in housing or other forms of housing discrimination by calling the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mailing the Justice Department at [email protected], or submitting a report online.
Individuals in the Central District of California also may file a complaint about housing discrimination or other civil rights violations with the Civil Rights Section, Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office by calling (213) 894-2879, emailing [email protected] or completing and submitting this form (English) (Spanish).
Reports also may be made by contacting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint online.
More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.justice.gov/crt. More information about the Civil Rights Section, Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California is available at https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/civil-division/civil-rights. View the Spanish translation of this press release here.