Nedzad Ukejnovic agreed to pay $110,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging the violation of the Fair Housing Act by sexually harassing multiple female tenants.
ST LOUIS, MO (STL.News) The Justice Department announced today that it had secured a settlement from a St. Louis, Missouri landlord, who had agreed to pay $110,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging that he violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) when he sexually harassed multiple female tenants.
Under the agreement, subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Nedzad Ukejnovic is required to pay $85,000 to compensate individuals harmed by the harassment and $20,000 to compensate the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council for resources it expended responding to the reported harassment. The defendant is also required to pay a $5,000 civil penalty to the United States.
“Far too often, landlords sexually harass and prey on those who are most vulnerable, and it is unacceptable,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce fair housing laws to hold those who engage in unlawful conduct to account.”
“Multiple tenants complained that Mr. Ukejnovic subjected them to vulgar and disgusting demands for sex, offering to reduce rent or security deposits if they complied,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming for the Eastern District of Missouri. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office takes allegations like these seriously and seeks to hold all civil rights violators accountable, whether civilly or criminally. Therefore, this agreement not only provides for monetary compensation but also prohibits him from contacting these tenants, bars him from his properties when a lease is in effect, and requires him to hire an independent property manager to prevent further violations of the civil rights laws. All of these are measures that will help protect current and future tenants.”
“It is abhorrent that a landlord would subject his tenants to sexual harassment and retaliation, robbing them of a safe place to call home,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Demetria L. McCain of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “This settlement sends a strong message that sexual harassment in housing is illegal and that those who violate the Fair Housing Act will be held accountable. HUD applauds today’s action and remains committed to working with DOJ to enforce our nation’s fair housing laws.”
In addition, the consent order requires the defendant to retain an independent property manager to manage his rental properties for the duration of the order, obtain fair housing training and implement non-discrimination policies and complaint procedures to prevent sexual harassment at his properties in the future.
The lawsuit, filed in September 2022, alleged that the defendant subjected multiple female tenants to harassment that included making unwelcome sexual advances, offering to reduce rent or security deposits in exchange for engaging in sex acts, requesting sexually explicit photos, staring at female tenants’ bodies sexually, subjecting female tenants to unwelcome sexual touching, and visiting and entering female tenants’ homes for no legitimate purpose.
The matter was referred to the Justice Department after HUD received two complaints alleging that the defendant violated the Fair Housing Act. The complainants – a former female tenant and the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council, a non-profit organization that helped the tenant file a complaint with HUD and engaged in outreach and education efforts following the defendant’s harassment of the tenant – chose to have the matter decided in federal court after HUD investigated their complaints and issued a charge of discrimination. Upon receiving the referral, the Justice Department investigated further and identified additional female tenants whom the defendant sexually harassed.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division in coordination with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country. The initiative seeks to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, and other people who have control over housing. Since launching the initiative, the department has filed 31 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $10.8 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. In addition, the Civil Rights Division is committed to protecting people from sexual misconduct. 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 calling the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-833-591-0291 or submitting a report online. Individuals may also report such discrimination by contacting HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint online.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice
Martin Smith is the founder and Editor in Chief of STL.News, STL.Directory and St. Louis Restaurant Review. Smith is responsible for selecting content to be published with the help of a publishing team located around the globe. Smith is also responsible for building a network of aggregator sites to manage thousands of aggregated and indexed sources to create the content library used to filter and publish. He is a member of the United States Press Agency.