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Justice Department Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Cincinnati, Ohio Landlord

The Justice Department today announced that landlord John Klosterman and his wife, Susan Klosterman, will pay $177,500 to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit alleging that John Klosterman sexually harassed female tenants since at least 2013 at residential properties the couple owned in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

Under the settlement, which still must be approved by the court, the Klostermans will pay $167,125 in damages to former tenants who were harmed by John Klosterman’s harassment, $7,875 to another plaintiff in the lawsuit, and a $2,500 civil penalty to the United States. The consent order also bars the defendants from participating in the rental or management of residential properties in the future.

“Sexual harassment of women in their homes is indecent, destructive, and illegal,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “The Fair Housing Act protects the right of women and their families to live in peace and security and without the fear that deviant people will intimidate and bully them for sexual favors. This department will continue tirelessly to pursue landlords and others who abuse their authority by preying upon vulnerable women.” 

“In this settlement, Klosterman acknowledges that the United States has evidence he sexually harassed tenants on multiple occasions,” said U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers for the Southern District of Ohio. “He’s being held accountable under the Fair Housing Act and will pay more than $167,000 to victims of his heinous conduct.”

The complaint, filed in 2018, alleged that John Klosterman sexually harassed female tenants at the rental properties since at least 2013. According to the complaint, he engaged in harassment that included, among other things, making unwelcome sexual advances and comments, sending unwanted sexual text messages and photos, engaging in unwanted sexual touching, offering to reduce rent and overlooking or excusing late or unpaid rent in exchange for sex, evicting or threatening to evict female tenants who objected to or refused sexual advances, and entering the homes of female tenants without their consent and otherwise monitoring their daily activities with cameras directed at their units. 

The defendants acknowledged in the settlement that, if this case had gone to trial, the United States was prepared to introduce the following evidence: (a) sworn deposition testimony from John Klosterman acknowledging that, on multiple occasions, he engaged in inappropriate sexual communications with his female tenants and prospective tenants, made comments about the physical appearances of his female tenants and prospective tenants, sent pictures of a naked male statue to his female tenants, and offered to send to his female tenants, and requested that his female tenants send to him, sexual photographs; (b) sworn deposition testimony from John Klosterman admitting that he offered to pay an “allowance” to a female tenant in exchange for engaging in a sexual relationship with him; and (c) text messages and recordings of phone calls in which John Klosterman made sexual comments to female tenants and prospective female tenants.

The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The Attorney General recently reaffirmed this commitment by directing the Justice Department to deploy all available enforcement tools against anyone who tries to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing. The goal of the department’s initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing. As part of the initiative, the Justice Department developed a public service announcement and formed a joint task force with HUD to combat sexual harassment in housing. Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Department of Justice has filed 18 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing. Since January 2017, the Justice Department has filed or settled 23 cases alleging sexual harassment in housing and has recovered over $2.9 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. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.justice.gov/crt. Individuals can report sexual harassment or other forms of housing discrimination by calling the Justice Department’s Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mailing the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or submitting a report online. Individuals can also report such discrimination by contacting HUD at 1-800-669-9777 or filing a complaint online.