Sex-for-Repair Lawsuit Settlement Reaches $7.9 Million From Baltimore City Housing
Jan 12, 2016 04:34 AM EST
A multimillion federal lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department on alleged sex-for-repair scheme. Now the settlement has reached up to $7.9 million worth of charges to Baltimore female public housing tenants who were victimized by maintenance workers.
The lawsuit, filed in September, stated that maintenance workers demanded sexual favors in exchange for making repairs. When the women did not comply, repairs were not made thus exposing the tenants in poor living conditions involving mold, pest infestations, lack of heat and risk of electrocution.
Currently, 19 women have joined the suit. Cary Hansel, an attorney for the women, has called the pending settlement the largest Fair Housing Act case of its kind related to sexual harassment. To this the attorney has also filed for class action status, claiming there are many more victims to this case.
According to the Baltimore Sun, this historic settlement will be paid in large part from the housing authority's reserve account, which is funded with about $50 million in federal dollars. A portion, $850,000, will be paid by the housing authority's insurance plan.
City Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano, who has pledged to make changes assuring that all residents can live in "peace and dignity," also emphasized that no city money was involved in the settlement made.
Moreover, Graziano, who run the city housing authority for 15 years, revealed at a news conference that aside from the legal settlement, the agency has also taken the strongest possible disciplinary action against the employees involved. Hansel declared that the abusers were all fired.
"I hope this process increases the awareness of everybody - employees, residents, the general public - that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated, and that residents understand their rights," Graziano said.
Furthermore, as the Baltimore housing chief, Graziano guaranteed that employees will undergo proper training to avoid cases like this to arise in the future. He also announced that there will be a new computerized system that will allow tenants to request repairs without going through housing authority staff.
The settlement now needs approval from a judge and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Also, a criminal investigation into the maintenance workers is under way.