Justice Department Sues Bakersfield, Calif., Landlord for Sexual Harassment

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today filed suit against Rawland Leon Sorensen, the owner and manager of more than 50 residential rental properties in Bakersfield, Calif., alleging a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleges that Sorensen sexually harassed female tenants by making unwelcome sexual comments and advances; exposing his genitals to female tenants; touching tenants without their consent; granting and denying housing benefits based on sex; and taking adverse action against women who refused his sexual advances. Sorensen has operated his rental business for more than 30 years.

“No person should have to fear sexual harassment from a landlord who holds a key to their home,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Depar
ment’s Civil Rights Division. “Sexual harassment in housing is intolerable, and landlords should be on notice that the Justice Department will vigorously prosecute landlords who engage in this type of discrimination.”

“This type of behavior is unconscionable and unacceptable,” said Benjamin B. Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to using all of our legal tools to ensure that no one is subjected to this type of harassment.”

The suit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, a civil penalty and a court order barring future discrimination.

Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt . Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.