By Joseph Turco, Esq.
“If I had a hammer, I’d SMASH the Patriarchy.” This message was seen on a sign at the Women’s March on January 21, 2017.
It should come as no surprise that several Village big wigs (all white, all male) have been exposed as cads and worse as a result of the #MeToo movement. Ken Friedman’s Spotted Pig is so stained by its ‘Rape Room’ that it will be a miracle if that place survives another minute (“Will Madonna ever return here?” asked one doofus standing outside the place recently). It should be noted that a different Ken Friedman, who has appeared in my previous WestView articles because he is a Christopher Street landlord, is suddenly horrified to learn that he shares a name with the loathsome proprietor of the Spotted Pig.
And who can forget Preet Bharara who, as a federal prosecutor, secured $2 million for a group of sexually harassed tenants in New York City? That 2016 victory remains the largest award to date under the Federal Fair Housing Act. That’s the same Preet Bharara fired by Donald Trump, in case you had not again noticed the uncanny creepiness of the Molester-in-Chief—a landlord from Queens. Every lawyer I talk to just cannot wait for Preet to ride back into town.
So, given the precedent set by heroic victims, effective lawsuits around the City and across America, and with the current movement exposing wrongdoers, our editors thought a legal primer on sexual harassment in housing might be appropriate.
Are landlords liable for sexual harassment?
Yes. Federal, state, and local law all prohibit property owners, managers, and agents (that includes employees, supers, handymen, and contractors) from engaging in sexual harassment. The law also requires owners and managers to step in and stop sexual harassment when it is brought to their attention.
What is sexual harassment?
‘Sexual harassment’ is any uninvited sexual advance, solicitation, request, or demand of a sexual nature. There are two types of sexual harassment:
Quid Pro Quo: This Latin phrase simply means ‘this for that.’ If a landlord, manager, super, etc., makes access to your home, or the keeping or maintenance of your apartment, conditional upon listening to, or submitting to sexual comments, then they are violating the law.
Call 311 for guidance. Be advised that the NYPD will accept 911 calls for sexual harassment in your building. This is a relatively new policy. You do not have to wait for an assault before calling 911.