US Sues Superintendent and Landlord of Residential Buildings in Manhattan for Sexual Harassment – Legal Newswire –
PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, announced today that the United
States has filed a lawsuit against the superintendent, WILLIAM
BARNASON, and the owner, STANLEY KATZ, of several buildings
located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for discrimination on
the basis of sex, stemming from the sexual harassment of female
tenants. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that BARNASON
sexually harassed female tenants by routinely demanding to have
sexual relations with them in exchange for rent reductions.
While KATZ allegedly was aware of this conduct, he purportedly
refused to take any meaningful steps to address it.
The lawsuit was filed under the Fair Housing Act,
which, among other things, prohibits gender-based discrimination
in connection with rental property, or in the provision of
services in connection with rental properties.
According to the civil Complaint filed in Manhattan
federal court:
BARNASON, a Level 3 registered sex offender, has been
employed by KATZ as the superintendent of three residential
buildings (collectively, the “Properties”) — located at 144 West
73rd Street, 140 West 75th Street, and 142 West 75th Street in
Manhattan — for over eight years. As the Properties’
superintendent, BARNASON had access to keys to tenants’
apartments. BARNASON subjected numerous female tenants living in
the Properties to severe, unwelcome and pervasive sexual
harassment, thereby creating a hostile environment for female
tenants and amounting to quid pro quo harassment in violation of
the Fair Housing Act.
BARNASON’s alleged conduct included various forms of
unwanted verbal sexual advances, touching, and language,
including his solicitation of sexual favors in exchange for
reductions in rent payments, inappropriate grabbing of tenants,
and yelling obscenities at tenants who would not comply with his
sexual demands. BARNASON also withheld basic duties, such as
delivery of mail and apartment repairs, and threatened tenants
with eviction, if his sexual demands were refused.
Meanwhile, KATZ was aware of BARNASON’s conduct. And,
despite receiving multiple complaints of sexual harassment, KATZ
refused to take any meaningful steps to address it.
* * *
The Complaint seeks civil penalties under the Fair
Housing Act, which provides for up to $50,000 for a first
violation of the Act, and also seeks compensatory and punitive
damages for the alleged victims.
By Presidential Proclamation on April 1, 2010,
President BARACK OBAMA declared April 2010 National Sexual
Assault Awareness Month. In his Proclamation, the President
recognized that sexual harassment occurs far too frequently and
disproportionately affects women.
U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA said: “Every woman has a
right to live in an environment free from sexual harassment and
discrimination. Pervasive sexual harassment by a superintendent,
and a landlord’s conscious refusal to address it, as alleged in
the Complaint, are illegal and intolerable. This case
underscores this Office’s commitment to vigorously protecting the
civil rights of all New Yorkers.”
This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights
Unit. If you believe you have been a victim of sexual harassment
by a superintendent or building owner in connection with rental
property, including of the conduct alleged in the Government’s
lawsuit, please contact the Civil Rights Unit complaint line at
(212) 637-0840.
Assistant United States Attorney CAROLINA A. FORNOS is
in charge of the case.
10-140 ###

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