On August 8, 2017, Relman Colfax filed a federal housing discrimination lawsuit against Oswego, New York landlord Douglas Waterbury, alleging that Waterbury demanded sexual favors from female tenants in exchange for lower rents and other benefits of tenancy. The plaintiffs in the case, six women and a northern New York local fair housing organization, describe Waterbury’s long-standing and pervasive pattern and practice of quid pro quo sex discrimination in violation of the Fair Housing Act and the New York State Human Rights Law’s prohibitions against sex discrimination.

Each of the six individual plaintiffs are women who were victimized by Waterbury and who were told by Waterbury that they could pay for their units through sexual trades and favors. After receiving complaints about Waterbury’s conduct, the seventh plaintiff, CNY Fair Housing, Inc., a fair housing organization that serves Central and Northern New York, conducted an extensive investigation that uncovered Waterbury’s ongoing pattern of behavior that has affected a number of the approximately 50 properties in Oswego that he and his companies own.

In June 2019, a settlement was reached on behalf of CNY Fair Housing, Inc. and eight women who alleged that an Oswego, New York landlord demanded sexual favors as a condition of tenancy. The settlement resolved housing discrimination claims against Douglas Waterbury and two of his property management companies. The settlement provides $400,000 in damages and other financial relief for all nine plaintiffs, and innovative injunctive relief preventing Waterbury from being directly involved in any property management.

A consent decree, approved by the Judge Mae D'Agostino of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York on June 21, 2019, enjoins Waterbury from having any contact with the Plaintiffs, and requires him to obtain an independent property manager for his properties, as he will be permanently barred from personally managing any rental housing. Waterbury is also prohibited from having any contact with any tenant or prospective tenant, and is not be allowed to enter any occupied rental property for any purpose. The consent decree provides that CNY Fair Housing must approve the property manager and sexual harassment policies and procedures to be distributed to Defendants’ tenants.  

The Relman, Dane & Colfax litigation team was led by Jia Cobb, Megan Cacace, and Yiyang Wu.  

Case Caption

CNY Fair Housing, Inc. v. Waterbury, No. 5:17-cv-868 (N.D.N.Y.)

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