Justice Dept. sues Bakersfield landlord for sexual harassment

Justice Dept. sues Bakersfield landlord for sexual harassment »Play Video
Rawland Leon Sorensen on Friday denies allegations from the Justice Department that he sexually harassed female tenants.

WASHINGTON — A Bakersfield landlord is accused of sexually harassing his female tenants.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit Friday against Rawland Leon Sorensen, alleging violation of the Fair Housing Act. Sorensen owns and manages more than 50 residential rental properties in Bakersfield, according to the Justice Department. He has operated his rental business for more than 30 years, the federal department said.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, alleges that Sorensen sexually harassed female tenants by making unwelcome sexual comments and advances, exposing his genitals to female tenants, touching tenants without their consent, granting and denying housing benefits based on sex, and taking adverse action against women who refused his sexual advances.

Sorensen denied any wrongdoing Friday.

"All the allegations are not true, and lawyers are coaching the accusers to match their stories," Sorensen told Eyewitness News.

USA vs. Rawland Leon Sorensen: Read the entire lawsuit

Federal prosecutors were clear in their confidence in the allegations.

"No person should have to fear sexual harassment from a landlord who holds a key to their home," Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, said in a news release. "Sexual harassment in housing is intolerable, and landlords should be on notice that the Justice Department will vigorously prosecute landlords who engage in this type of discrimination."