Despite strides toward equal treatment under the law over the past century, women across the country, especially Black and Latine women, continue to face discrimination and be victims of gender-based violence such as sexual harassment. This Women’s History Month, Relman Colfax honors the resilience of women and nonbinary people who have advanced the struggle against discrimination, and reflects on three of our landmark gender justice cases:
Challenging Pregnancy Discrimination
In 2022, the Firm settled a HUD administrative complaint against the Police and Fire Federal Credit Union (PFFCU) which, our clients alleged, refused to process an application for a home renovation loan because the client was on maternity leave and receiving pay under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Despite clear eligibility for the loan, PFFCU told the client she would have to return to work and have at least two pay stubs without FMLA before PFFCU would approve the loan. The settlement agreement requires PFFCU, to, among other things, include in its underwriting policies provisions about maternity and paternity leave as a form of short-term leave; permit future borrowers on paid or short term leave on parental leave to close loans before they return to work and to use FMLA and other short-term disability payments to qualify for loans, and pay the clients $50,000 for damages and attorneys’ fees.
Holding D.C. Housing Authority Accountable for Failing to Act on Reports of Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment
In 2022, the Firm secured a victory when Judge Amit P. Mehta handed down an opinion denying a motion for summary judgment filed by the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA), which, our clients allege, allowed its property manager, Defendant Quantay Oliver, to sexually harass them, including asking them to perform sex and offering them housing benefits repeatedly in exchange for sexual favors. The next step in the case will be to proceed to trial. Our Plaintiffs’ Complaint, filed in 2020, alleges that our Plaintiffs, who lived in District of Columbia Housing Authority properties for many years, had their rights under the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Protection Clause violated by Oliver’s persistent harassment over several years. While many DCHA officials had been informed of Oliver’s harassment, none stopped the harassment or held him accountable, and Oliver acted under color of law as a DCHA official.
Holding a Private Landlord Accountable for Sexual Harassment of Women
In 2019, Relman Colfax secured a landmark consent decree in a lawsuit against Doug Waterbury, an Oswego, New York-based landlord who, our clients alleged, demanded sexual favors from women tenants in exchange for lower rents and other benefits of tenancy. The consent decree requires Waterbury to pay the Plaintiffs $400,000 and for an outside company to manage his rental units going forward. Our Plaintiffs’ Complaint, first filed in 2017, alleged that Waterbury demanded sexual favors from women tenants in exchange for lower rents and other benefits of tenancy. Plaintiff CNY Fair Housing, Inc. a fair housing organization in Central New York, received many complaints regarding Waterbury’s behavior towards women in the provision of housing, and launched an extensive investigation that revealed Waterbury engaging in predatory conduct towards women tenants going back to at least 2012.
Relman Colfax will continue to hold accountable individuals and institutions who target women for discriminatory behavior and practices.