The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against an Oil City couple who run a rental property company, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation.
Filed under the Fair Housing Act, the lawsuit accuses Allen Woodcock of sexually harassing a female tenant in April 2019 when he arrived at her home to perform maintenance.
He and his wife, Heidi Moon Woodcock, who is also named in the complaint, own and manage at least seven residential properties in that area, the complaint said.
According to the lawsuit, Allen Woodcock went to the home to perform maintenance on April 20, 2019.
However, when he arrived, the lawsuit said, Woodcock placed his arms around the tenant, rubbed his hands up and down her legs, grabbed her arm, pushed her against the wall and forcibly tried to kiss her. He later then sent an inappropriate text message to the woman, according to the lawsuit.
The tenant, the lawsuit continued, told Heidi Moon Woodcock what happened eight days later, which then prompted the couple to retaliate against her.
“Immediately or shortly thereafter, Defendant Moon Woodcock sent the following text messages to [the tenant]: ‘You are out.’ ‘You got 10 days.’ ‘You are a liar.’ Later that same day, Defendants served [the tenant] with a notice to vacate,” the lawsuit said.
On May 10, 2019, Moon Woodcock filed a landlord tenant complaint in Venango County seeking to evict the woman.
At that hearing two weeks later, the tenant agreed to move out by June 3.
The woman, however, filed a fair housing complaint against the Woodcocks with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development alleging discrimination based on sex.
HUD completed an investigation, issued a charge of discrimination on March 1 and then authorized the Department of Justice to commence a civil action in U.S. District Court.
The lawsuit seeks money damages and to enjoin the Woodcocks from engaging in discrimination on the basis of sex, or from using threat or intimidation in their housing practices.
“People should never have to endure sexual harassment in their home, where they should feel safe and secure,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a news release. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act against landlords who engage in this kind of abusive and illegal behavior.”
Sexual harassment in housing is illegal, said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman.
“Landlords, property managers or anyone else with control over housing should recognize by the filing of this lawsuit that we take action to combat such despicable conduct.”
The Woodcocks could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday morning.