The owner, property manager, and maintenance worker of a single-family property in Bakersfield, California, have been charged with sexually harassing a female tenant and retaliating against her for reporting the misconduct. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) considers their actions a direct violation of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, including sexual harassment.
According to the HUD news release, the tenant was subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, comments, and behavior by the property’s maintenance worker, Juvenal Salazar. The harassment included sending graphic sexual text messages on a daily basis and even groping the tenant in her own home. When the tenant confronted Salazar and complained to the property manager and Juvenal’s father, Javier Salazar, about the inappropriate conduct, the Salazars allegedly retaliated against her.
Retaliation and Consequences
After the tenant complained and threatened to involve law enforcement, HUD says the Salazars ignored critical repairs to the tenant’s heating appliance, leaving her without heat and gas in her home for a month. Tragically, her daughter fell ill as a direct result of the lack of heat. Additionally, when the tenant moved out, the Salazars changed the lock on her door, preventing her from accessing her belongings, and refused to return her security deposit. The owner of the property faces charges as well.
HUD’s Commitment to Enforcement
HUD’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Demetria L. McCain, expressed deep concern over the sexual harassment of tenants by landlords and their agents. She emphasized that the Fair Housing Act was designed to combat such behavior, and HUD’s General Counsel, Damon Smith, highlighted that it is strictly prohibited. HUD remains committed to enforcing the Act and holding violators accountable.
Legal Proceedings and Potential Remedies
Unless a party elects to move the case to the federal district court, an Administrative Law Judge will preside over it. If discrimination is found, the judge may award damages to the tenant for her losses, order injunctive relief and other equitable measures to prevent future discrimination, and even impose civil penalties to protect the public interest. Federal courts may also award punitive damages.
Reporting Housing Discrimination
You can report housing discrimination to HUD ((800) 669-9777 voice, 800-927-9275 TTY) or the Department of Justice ((800) 896-7743, 202-514-4713).
For more information on fair housing, visit www.hud.gov/fairhousing and www.justice.gov. You can also learn more here on our website.