$1 Million Judgment in Sexual Harassment Case Against Landlord

Source: U.S. Department of Justice

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that former Cincinnati landlord, James G. Mitchell, and his company, Land Baron Enterprises, agreed to pay $1 million in monetary damages and a civil penalty, after admitting that they violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This is the largest monetary settlement the Department has ever obtained in a case alleging sexual harassment violations under the FHA.

“These women were subjected to blatant, threatening and unwanted sexual advances in their homes,” said Grace Chung Becker, Acing Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “While nothing can fully compensate for the pain that these women experienced, this $1 million settlement reflects the gravity of the alleged conduct. I commend the victims who bravely came forward and Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) for their referral.”

Under the consent judgment, which must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, the defendants — James G. Mitchell and Land Baron Enterprises, a corporation that owned many of the properties that Mitchell managed — must pay $890,000 in compensation to 12 women who Mitchell sexually harassed and $110,000 in a civil penalty to the United States. The first $250,000 must be paid within two weeks of the court’s approval and the remaining $750,000 will be payable within 30 days of the court’s approval and will be distributed among the 12 women. In addition, the consent judgment enjoins Mitchell from further discrimination and requires him to retain an independent management company to manage future rental properties he acquires. Mitchell currently does not own or operate any rental properties.

The complaint alleges that the defendants subjected female tenants to unwanted verbal sexual advances and unwanted sexual touching; entered the apartments of female tenants without permission or notice; granted and denied tangible housing benefits in exchange for sexual favors; and took adverse action against female tenants when they refused or objected to his sexual advances.

The Department began investigating Mitchell after HOME, a Cincinnati-based non-profit fair housing advocacy group, notified the Department of sexual harassment complaints it had received about Mitchell.

The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. Since Jan. 1, 2001, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed 259 cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act, 27 of which alleged discrimination based on sex. In fiscal year 2008, the Department has settled four other sexual harassment lawsuits involving housing or lending, for a total of $935,000. The largest judgment the Department has ever obtained after a trial in a case involving sexual harassment in housing was $1.1 million, against Kansas City landlords Bobby and Jewel Veal, in 2004.

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces can be found at http://www.usdoj.gov/crt.

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