A recent settlement announced by the Department of Justice has left many shocked and disgusted. Salazar Dos Santos, a longtime landlord in Chicopee, Massachusetts, has agreed to pay $450,000 to resolve allegations of serial sexual harassment and assault of his female tenants. This comes as a result of a lawsuit filed against him in 2019, and the settlement includes $425,000 to be paid to the victims and a $25,000 civil penalty. In addition, Dos Santos is barred from managing any residential properties and must hire an independent property manager.
Dos Santos has been managing eight properties, comprising approximately 40 individual units in Chicopee, for decades. The properties are owned by various trusts tied to him, including the Trust of Salazar Dos Santos and the Trust of America Dos Santos, which were both named as defendants in the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, Dos Santos has been harassing and assaulting tenants for over a decade, often offering to exchange sex for rent.
The lawsuit alleges that between 2008 and 2009, Salazar Dos Santos coerced female tenants into performing oral sex for him, exposed his penis to them, subjected them to unwanted sexual contact and advances, and threatened women who resisted and objected to his sexual harassment. One former tenant even reported that Dos Santos required her to pay rent in person, would lock his office door, and demand she perform oral sex on him. When she didn’t have childcare, he forced her to do so in front of her infant child.
Another female tenant recounted a horrific experience in 2019 when Dos Santos entered her home, took out his penis, masturbated, and demanded oral sex. She took his harassment to be an “implied offer of sex for rent.” Such incidents of sexual harassment are unacceptable and illegal, and the victims must be protected and supported in seeking justice.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative, led by the Civil Rights Division, was instrumental in investigating the allegations and ensuring that justice was served. Launched in October 2017, at the outset of the national #MeToo movement, the initiative has secured more than $10 million in settlements for victims of sexual harassment in housing. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clark stated, “Coercing tenants to engage in sex acts and retaliating against those who resist are among the most egregious forms of sexual harassment that we see today.”
This settlement serves as a warning to all landlords and property managers that sexual harassment and assault will not be tolerated in any form. It is a reminder that everyone has the right to live in a safe and harassment-free environment, and it is the responsibility of the authorities to ensure that justice is served for those who have been victimized. The courage of the victims in speaking up and the efforts of the Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative must be applauded and supported in continuing to combat sexual harassment in all forms.