The Justice Department announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the manager and the owner of a rental property in Los Angeles for engaging in sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges that Abraham Kesary sexually harassed female tenants at 445 S. Western Avenue in Los Angeles since at least 2012. According to the complaint, Kesary offered housing-related benefits in exchange for sexual acts, made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to female tenants, entered the homes of female tenants without their permission, and subjected female tenants to unwelcome sexual acts. The lawsuit also names M&F Development LLC, the owner of the property, as a defendant.
“No one should be subjected to demands for sex, sexual comments or propositions in exchange for safe and affordable housing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “A home is a place of refuge; not a place to be subjected to degrading and unlawful harassment. The Justice Department is committed to vigorously enforcing the Fair Housing Act and holding landlords and housing providers accountable when they sexually harass their tenants.”
“Mr. Kesary allegedly abused his power as a property manager to sexually harass and victimize vulnerable tenants for years,” said U.S Attorney Martin Estrada for the Central District of California. “Sexual harassment is a violation of the Fair Housing Act, and the Justice Department will do everything in its power to seek justice for victims of discrimination and harassment.”
The lawsuit 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.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings owned or managed by Abraham Kesary or M&F Development LLC, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, may contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-833-591-0291, select option 1 for English or option 2 for Spanish, select option 2 for sexual harassment, then select option 5 for English or option 4 for Spanish to leave a message. Individuals may also email the department at [email protected] or submit a report online. 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.
The Justice Department launched its Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative in October 2017. The department’s 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, the department has filed 31 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $10.7 million for victims of such harassment.