A North Carolina man is accused of sexually harassing women he rented or sold property to, according to a federal lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, said Robert Neal Hatfield of Wilkesboro violated the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act by harassing the women over a 13-year period.
Hatfield has managed property in Wilkes County since 2001 and has sold or rented at least 50 residences during that time, the lawsuit said. In 2004, the prosecutors allege, Hatfield began to sexually discriminate against and harass women who applied for loans and were perspective tenants for his homes.
A man who answered Hatfield’s phone Thursday declined to comment.
His alleged conduct included making unwelcome advances and groping the women without consent, the lawsuit said. Hatfield also allegedly offered benefits to tenants, including reducing rent or overlooking late and unpaid rent, in exchange for sexual favors. Hatfield allegedly retaliated against women who rejected his advances or declined sexual favors, the lawsuit said, though the document didn’t detail how he retaliated.
Hatfield’s “conduct was intentional, willful, and taken in reckless disregard of the rights of others,” the lawsuit said.
The U.S. Justice Department seeks a court order declaring Hatfield violated the Fair Housing Act and Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Federal prosecutors seek damages for the victims.
LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS