Dad, Son Refused to Fix Tenant’s Gas Leak After She Reported Sexual Harassment
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Javier Salazar Jr., Javier Salazar Sr., and Ricardo Covarrubias, a maintenance worker, the manager, and the owner, respectively, of rental properties in Bakersfield, California, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Preying on renters who have few housing options is abhorrent and illegal.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleges that Javier Salazar, Jr., a maintenance worker, sexually harassed a female tenant from December 2018 through March 2019 by repeatedly asking the tenant to engage in sexual acts with him, asking her to be in a relationship with him, describing the sexual acts he wished to engage in with her and persistently commenting on her appearance.
The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable any person in the housing sector who sexually harasses, assaults or retaliates against tenants, from the housing owner to the maintenance worker. A home should be a place of refuge and sanctity, not sexual assault and exploitation, and we will continue to use the Fair Housing Act to hold violators accountable.
According to the complaint, on two occasions, Javier Salazar Jr. touched the tenant’s body without her consent. He secretly took digital photographs of framed print pictures in her home of her and her daughter. The tenant reported Salazar Jr.’s conduct to Salazar Sr., who was both the property manager and Salazar Jr.’s father. After she reported the harassment and threatened to contact a lawyer or the police if it continued, the Salazars refused to fix a leaking gas line in her dwelling, causing her to go without heat for one month and consequently forcing her to move out. The complaint also alleges that the property owner, Covarrubias, is vicariously liable for the Salazars’ conduct because they were his agents when they engaged in sexual harassment and retaliation.
“Sexual harassment in rental housing preys on tenants who are especially vulnerable, including those who rely on their housing provider for critical maintenance services,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to holding accountable any person in the housing sector who sexually harasses, assaults or retaliates against tenants, from the housing owner to the maintenance worker. A home should be a place of refuge and sanctity, not sexual assault and exploitation, and we will continue to use the Fair Housing Act to hold violators accountable.”
“For four months this tenant refused the repeated sexual advances by the maintenance worker at her rental home, and when she reported the sexual harassment, she faced retaliation,” said U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert for the Eastern District of California. “The actions of Salazar Jr. and the failure or refusal of Salazar Sr. and Covarrubias to act on the tenant’s behalf caused her harm and distress. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will hold accountable any landlord who enables or engages in sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.”
“Preying on renters who have few housing options is abhorrent and illegal,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Demetria McCain of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD will continue to work with DOJ to enforce the law and protect tenants.”
The lawsuit arose from a complaint the former tenant filed with HUD. After HUD investigated the complaint, it issued a charge of discrimination, and the matter was referred to the Justice Department. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate the victim and a court order barring future discrimination.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is part of the Civil Rights Division in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide. The initiative aims to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing. Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Justice Department has filed 34 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division enforces the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment by Javier Salazar Jr., or at rental dwellings owned or managed by Ricardo Covarrubias or Javier Salazar Sr., or who have other information that may be relevant to this case should call the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, email the Justice Department at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or submit a report online.