The U.S. Department of Justice has announced a settlement that will have a Wichita landlord paying $160,000 in damages and civil penalties to resolve a Fair Housing Act lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleged that Thong Cao sexually harassed a number of female tenants since at least 2009 at residential properties he owned or operated in Wichita.  His wife, Mai Cao, was also named in the lawsuit because she owned or co-owned certain rental properties where the harassment was alleged to have occurred.

A consent order was issued in federal court for the District of Kansas that calls on the Caos to pay $155,000 in monetary damages to eleven former tenants, plus a $5,000 civil penalty.   The order also bans Cao from participating in the rental or management of residential properties in the future.

The lawsuit was filed in 2017 and it was the result of two complaints that former tenants filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.   The lawsuit alleged that Thong Cao sexually harassed female residents at the rental properties from at least 20098 to 2014.   The harassment involved unwelcome sexual advances and comments, unwanted sexual touching and evictions of women who refused to engage in sexual conduct with him.

The Justice Department began an initiative in 2017 to combat sexual harassment in housing, and the department has filed or settled 18 sexual harassment cases, recovering over $2.7 million for victims.