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Douglas S. Waterbury, a residential property owner and landlord in Oswego, is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for sexual harassment.
In its lawsuit, the Justice Department states Waterbury subjected female tenants and potential tenants to egregious sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
In addition to Waterbury, the department’s complaint also names his wife and business partner, Carol A. Waterbury, and two residential property companies, Ontario Realty Inc. and EA Management Co., as defendants.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, alleges that since at least 1990, Douglas Waterbury has sexually harassed numerous women who have lived in or inquired about the defendants’ residential rental properties.
The suit alleges Waterbury’s conduct has included demanding or pressuring female tenants and potential tenants to engage in sex acts with him in order to obtain or keep rental housing; subjecting female tenants and potential tenants to unwelcome sexual contact and groping; offering to grant tangible housing benefits, such as reduced rent or deposit payments, in exchange for sex acts; refusing needed maintenance services or otherwise taking adverse housing actions against female tenants who refused his harassment; and making unwelcome sexual comments and advances.
“Subjecting tenants and those looking for housing to harassment and demands for sex is unacceptable,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the Civil Rights Division.
“Combatting sexual harassment in housing is among the department’s top priorities,” Gore said. “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act this month, the Civil Rights Division stresses its commitment to tackling this scourge, which strikes at the heart of access to fair housing, free from harassment and other forms of illegal discrimination.”
“The complaint alleges severe, pervasive sexual harassment, including pressure to engage in sexual activity to obtain or keep rental housing and unwelcome sexual contact with actual and prospective female tenants,” said Grant C. Jaquith, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York.
“We are committed to the full and fair application of the Fair Housing Act to give meaning to its protection of renters from unlawful discrimination. Housing cannot be conditioned on submission to sexual harassment,” Jaquith said.
In October, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division announced the Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative. The initiative specifically seeks to increase the department’s efforts to protect individuals from harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, security guards, and other employees and representatives of rental property owners.
The Justice Department has filed or settled nine sexual harassment cases and has recovered over $1.6 million for victims of sexual harassment in housing since Jan. 20, 2017.
Waterbury also was cited in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed Aug. 8 by CNY Fair Housing. That suit alleged Waterbury demanded sexual favors from six women in exchange for housing in his rental units.
Waterbury owns about 50 properties in the Oswego area and is also the owner of several local amusement attractions, including the Sterling Renaissance Festival, Sylvan Beach Amusement Park and Santa’s Workshop in North Pole, Essex County.
The lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department seeks monetary damages to compensate the victims, civil penalties and a court order barring future discrimination. Justice Department officials say the complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct and all allegations must be proven in federal court.