BAKERSFIELD – A landlord for more than 50 properties in and around Bakersfield has been accused of sexually harassing his female tenants.
On Friday, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Rawland Leon Sorensen for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act. Sorenson has owned and managed residential rental properties for more than 30 years, according to the suit. Most of the properties are single-family homes.
The suit alleges that from at least 2002 until the present, “Leon Sorensen on multiple occasions subjected actual and prospective female tenants of the subject properties to discrimination on the basis of sex, including severe, pervasive, and unwelcome sexual harassment.”
Sorensen’s alleged harassment included making unwelcome sexual advances, exposing his genitals, groping tenants without their consent and entering the residences of female tenants without permission or notice. The suit also says that Sorensen granted housing benefits – such as reduced rent – in exchange for sexual favors, or took adverse housing action – such as initiating the eviction process – against those who refused his advances.
“Sexual harassment in housing is intolerable, and landlords should be on notice that the Justice Department will vigorously prosecute landlords who engage in this type of discrimination,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The suit seeks undetermined monetary damages for the victims and a civil penalty as well as a court order barring future discrimination.