Landlord To Pay $180,000 Penalty For Sexually Harassing Tenants
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Chicago landlord who tried to evict female tenants who spurned his sexual advances must pay $180,000 in damages and civil penalties under an agreement reached Thursday with the Justice Department.
He also must try to sell his building.
The government’s March 1993 lawsuit against Gheorghi Nedialkov, owner of a building with 40 apartments on the city’s North Side near Loyola University, was only the second case ever filed in federal court alleging violation of the Fair Housing Act through sexual harassment.
The government’s suit was settled along with a private lawsuit brought by three female tenants and the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing in October 1992.
″No woman should feel unsafe in her own home,″ said Assistant Attorney General Deval L. Patrick, head of the department’s civil rights division. He called the settlement a ″significant victory for these victims″ and ″a message to all unscrupulous landlords that sexual harassment of tenants can violate federal law.″
The government had accused Nedialkov of demanding sex, sexually touching and assaulting female tenants, offering rent reductions in exchange for sex, attempting to evict women who rejected his advances or reported him to authorities, refusing to make repairs for women who filed complaints against him and conditioning repairs on withdrawal of the complaints.
The agreement prohibits Nedialkov from managing any apartment building for at least four years, requires him to make a good-faith effort to sell the building, bars him from entering the building unless accompanied by an independent building manager and forbids him from talking with tenants.
In addition, he agreed to pay $150,000 in damages to six women identified as victims and $30,000 in civil penalties to the U.S. Treasury.
The Justice Department learned of the allegations after Frentzee Cacok, a tenant, filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Investigating her claim, HUD learned the lawyers committee already had sued on behalf of three other female tenants, Gwen Hardy, Cynthia Branham and Charmaine Berry.
HUD forwarded the complaint to the Justice Department in January 1993. A Justice Department investigation turned up a fifth female victim before the suit was filed. A sixth victim was later identified.
A consent decree embodying the agreement was signed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo in Chicago.