The Justice Department announced this week that it has filed a Fair Housing Act lawsuit against Iraj Shambayati and several other defendants alleging that Shambayati sexually harassed and retaliated against female tenants at residential properties he has owned or managed.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, alleges that since at least 2008, Shambayati has made repeated and unwelcome sexual comments and advances to female tenants, inappropriately touched their bodies without their permission, entered their homes without their permission or knowledge, requested sexual acts from them, offered them rental benefits in exchange for sex and took retaliatory actions against female tenants who rejected his sexual advances.
The complaint also alleges that his son Daniel Shambayati, Akbar Keshavarz, 1511 Rosewood LLC and IDHD Properties LLC are vicariously liable for Iraj Shambayati’s discriminatory conduct, because he acted as their agent when he sexually harassed tenants at properties in which they had an ownership interest.
“Landlords and other housing providers who abuse their positions by sexually harassing tenants violate the Fair Housing Act,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This lawsuit sends the message that the Justice Department will take concrete action to stop this illegal conduct.”
“Tenants have a right to fair treatment – and it’s the law,” said U.S. Attorney Jill E. Steinberg for the Southern District of Georgia. “We will not tolerate unlawful discrimination, harassment or abuse.”
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate persons harmed by the alleged harassment, civil penalties to vindicate the public interest and a court order barring future discrimination.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings managed by Iraj Shambayati, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, can contact the Justice Department’s housing discrimination tip line at 1-833-591-0291. Select 1 for English, and select option number 2, then option number 02 to leave a message. Individuals may also e-mail the Justice Department at email@example.com or submit a report online.
The Justice Department launched its Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative in October 2017. The department’s initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorneys’ offices across the country. The initiative seeks to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing. Since launching the initiative, the department has filed 33 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $10.8 million for victims of such harassment.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability and familial status.
The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct. The allegations must be proven in federal court.