More than $10 Million Secured for Victims of Sexual Harassment Through Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative
The Justice Department announced today that it has secured an agreement to resolve a lawsuit alleging that New London, Connecticut, landlord Richard Bruno violated the Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing female tenants and applicants. The settlement also resolves claims against Domco LLC and Domco II LLC, which, along with Bruno, owned the properties where the alleged harassment occurred.
Under the consent decree, subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, defendants are required to pay $350,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the harassment and pay a $50,000 civil penalty to the United States. With this settlement, which is part of the department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative, the department has obtained over $10 million for victims of sexual harassment.
“No person should ever have to endure sexual harassment in order to get or keep housing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “When landlords and housing providers sexually harass those seeking a roof over their head, they undermine human dignity, and violate the sense of safety and privacy in one’s home that we all deserve. As the Justice Department commemorates National Fair Housing Month, we stand more committed than ever to holding housing providers accountable for their unlawful behavior and seeking relief for survivors.”
“Mr. Bruno abused his power as a landlord to sexually harass and victimize his vulnerable tenants for years,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery for the District of Connecticut. “This settlement serves as an important reminder to the Connecticut community that sexual harassment by landlords is a violation of federal law, and this office will not hesitate to seek justice for any victims of such intolerable conduct.”
Special Agents from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General supported the Justice Department’s work in this matter.
“The allegations of sexual harassment in this case in violation of the Fair Housing Act are serious,” said Inspector General Rae Oliver Davis of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Every person deserves to find and stay in housing without facing sexual harassment from a landlord. HUD OIG is dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to seek justice for survivors and to hold housing providers accountable for sexually assaulting or harassing HUD tenants.”
Under the consent decree, Bruno is permanently prohibited from owning and managing residential rental properties in the future. The property owners must hire an independent property manager to manage their properties, obtain fair housing training and implement non-discrimination policies and complaint procedures to prevent sexual harassment at their properties in the future.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit, filed in February 2019, alleged that from at least 2011 through 2016, Bruno sexually harassed female tenants and applicants of rental properties owned or co-owned by Bruno, Domco LLC and Domco II LLC. According to the complaint, Bruno engaged in harassment that included making unwelcome sexual advances and comments, engaging in unwanted sexual touching, demanding or pressuring female applicants to engage in sexual acts to obtain rental privileges, evicting or threatening to evict female tenants who objected to or refused sexual advances, entering the homes of female tenants without their consent, asking to take and taking pictures and videos of the bodies of his tenants and their female children and establishing, maintaining and forcing his tenants and their minor female children to view “dungeons” or “sex rooms” in the rental properties.
Bruno, a former resident of Waterford, Connecticut, has been incarcerated since 2017. He is serving a 16-year sentence in federal prison, following his guilty plea to charges related to producing child pornography with a tenant’s minor child in one of the properties he managed.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The goal of the department’s initiative is 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 department has filed 30 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $10 million for victims of such harassment.
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. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt. Individuals may report sexual harassment or other forms of housing discrimination by submitting a report online or by contacting the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut at: (203) 821-3700.
Individuals may also report such discrimination by contacting HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint online.