Five women have intervened in a lawsuit brought by the United States attorney general against Stanley Katz and William Barnason for sexual harassment constituting multiple violations of the Fair Housing Act. The women, who are represented by New York sexual harassment attorney Joshua Friedman, were residents of apartment buildings in Manhattan's Upper West Side owned by Katz. Barnason served as superintendent of the apartment buildings.
The Today Show reported on this story in February 2010 and interviewed several of the residents who intervened in the lawsuit:
The government's lawsuit alleges that Barnason engaged in a years-long pattern of behavior that created an atmosphere of sexual hostility and harassment for the buildings' female residents. Katz is alleged to have ignored this conduct at best and facilitated it at worst. Living under conditions of near-constant harassment, the lawsuit says, constituted discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and deprived the residents of their rights to the property protected by that law. While the attorney general's lawsuit is brought on behalf of the American people, the claim brought directly on behalf of the residents may allow them to present their case and recover damages directly.
The intervenor complaint filed by the Friedman & Houlding LLP provides more detailed factual allegations. Each resident tells a part of her story in the complaint, including an allegation that Barnason accepted a $2,000 security deposit from a resident and threatened to keep it and deny her access to her apartment if she did not have sexual intercourse with him. While Katz initially agreed to keep Barnason away from her, harassment coninued from both Katz and Barnason. One resident alleges that Barnason drugged her late one night and tried to take her to a vacant apartment while she was impaired. Another resident witnessed this and intervened, and was able to get her away from Barnason. Multiple residents allege that Katz would steal their unemployment or welfare checks from their mailboxes, then harass them once they got behind on rent. Barnason would also offer to pay rent for certain residents in exchange for sex.
The intervenor complaint filed by the five women supplements the complaint filed by the government and adds additional claims. The women claim violations of the Fair Housing Act due to Barnason's repeated demands for sexual favors in exchange for ordinary superintendent services, other inappropriate sexual advances, sexual assaults, and harassing behavior and statements, as well as Katz's support of this conduct. They also claim violations of Title 8, Chapter 1 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, which offers more generous protections than the Fair Housing Act.
Both the Fair Housing Act and the civil rights provisions of the New York City Administrative Code prevent landlords or superintendents from discriminating, based on sex, in regard to the terms or conditions of residence, or in providing services for residents. By creating conditions on services such as basic repairs and requiring an exchange of sexual favors, and by engaging in a pervasive campaign of insults and slurs based on gender, Barnason and Katz are alleged to have discriminated based on sex against the residents. Both federal and city law allow the women to recover damages from Barnason and Katz if a court finds that they have suffered damages as a result of Barnason's and Katz's conduct. A court may also award punitive damages if it finds that their conduct meets certain standards.
New York sexual harassment attorney Joshua Friedman represents tenants who have suffered discrimination. Contact him today for a free and confidential consultation.
Buildings Superintendent Harassed Women, Suit Says, New York Times, April 22, 2010
'Sex-harass' super sued, New York Post, July 19, 2010
Fair Housing Act, U.S. Department of Justice