On August 29, 2022, a federal court in Washington, D.C. denied motions for summary judgment by the District of Columbia Housing Authority (“DCHA”) and Tifaqur Quantay Oliver (an employee of DCHA), defendants in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Relman Colfax represents two individual plaintiffs who were sexually harassed while living in D.C. public housing. Plaintiffs allege that Oliver (their housing manager) subjected them to a prolonged campaign of sexual harassment, exploiting his position by offering each Plaintiff housing benefits in exchange for sexual favors.
DCHA and Oliver sought summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ Fair Housing Act quid pro quo and hostile housing environment claims. Judge Amit P. Mehta rejected Defendants’ arguments, holding that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to believe the “litany of indignities” Plaintiffs had to endure, in support of their discrimination claims. Judge Mehta further held that there were sufficient facts in the record from which a jury could find DCHA vicariously liable for Oliver’s harassment and rejected DCHA’s attempt to evade liability prior to trial.
The Court’s opinion is also the first to address the question of whether, in light of HUD’s 2016 Harassment Rule, quid pro quo claims under the Fair Housing Act may proceed without evidence of an adverse housing consequence. Defendants argued that, because neither Plaintiff acquiesced to Oliver’s demands for sexual favors to resolve evictions proceedings and expedite needed repairs, they could not demonstrate an adverse housing consequence and therefore could not prevail on their quid pro quo claims. Relying on HUD’s 2016 Harassment Rule, the Court rejected Defendants’ argument, holding that no showing of adverse consequences is required under the Fair Housing Act. In doing so, he noted that HUD’s rulemaking distinguished harassment in or around one’s home from harassment in the workplace.
Following this fully favorable decision for Plaintiffs, the next step in the case will be to proceed to trial. The parties are scheduled for a status conference on September 16, 2022.
The Relman Colfax case team includes Tara Ramchandani, Gabriel Diaz, Soohyun Choi, and Gemma Donofrio, with paralegal assistance from Mariana Boully Perez and Emma Block.
A copy of Judge Mehta’s decision is available here.