May 16, 2018 at 5:00 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Trans woman sues D.C. apartment building for bias, ‘vulgar harassment’

Juan Venegas, shooting deaths, gay news, Washington Blade

A transgender woman of color and longtime D.C. resident filed a lawsuit on Tuesday charging that the owner of an apartment building on Georgia Avenue, N.W. and the management company that ran the building subjected her to a degree of discrimination and harassment “that shocks the conscience.”

Tiegan York charges in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the discrimination and harassment took place at the 3Tree Flats apartment building at 3910 Georgia Ave., N.W., where she lived for about two years beginning in September 2015.

The lawsuit names as defendants 3910 Georgia Avenue Associates, LP, the company that owns the building, and Residential One Management, a Columbia, Md., based company that was retained by the owner to manage the building.

“Defendants discriminated against Ms. York by, among other things, ignoring her maintenance requests – even for basic necessities such as heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer – for years while fulfilling the requests of other tenants, due to Ms. York’s gender identity and sexual orientation,” the lawsuit states.

It adds that the owner and management company were responsible for “subjecting Ms. York to a hostile housing environment by calling her the most vulgar and insulting names due to her gender identity and sexual orientation and…retaliating against her for exercising her basic rights under the District of Columbia law on the basis of her gender identity and sexual orientation.”

“For approximately two years,” the lawsuit adds, “Defendants subjected Plaintiff to discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile housing environment based on her gender identity and sexual orientation to a degree that shocks the conscience.”

Representatives of 3910 Georgia Avenue Associates and Residential One Management couldn’t immediately be reached on Wednesday for comment on the lawsuit and its allegations.

Court records show that as of early Wednesday a process server had not yet delivered copies of the lawsuit to the two defendants and their attorneys had not been identified.

Court records show that York is being represented by attorneys with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs and the D.C. law firm Goodwin Procter LLP.

Katherine Cone, an attorney with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, and Adam Chud, an attorney with Goodwin Procter told the Washington Blade they would ask York if she would be interested in talking directly to the Blade about her experiences as a tenant at the 3Tree Flats apartments.

The lawsuit states that York first encountered what she believes was discriminatory treatment almost immediately after moving in to her fifth floor apartment in the six-story building in 2015, when she discovered that neither the heating system nor air conditioning was working in the apartment. It says she quickly submitted a maintenance request with the management company.

“Virtually all of Ms. York’s maintenance requests were ignored by the Defendants,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants did not repair Ms. York’s heating and air conditioning for nearly two years, subjecting her to very cold conditions in her apartment in the winter and very warm conditions in her apartment in the summer,” it says.

The lawsuit says that among those who treated York improperly was Wilbert Jefferson, the maintenance engineer at 3Tree Flats, who was employed by Residential One.

“On a virtually daily basis throughout the entire period Ms. York lived at the property, Mr. Jefferson used derogatory terms to address Ms. York, calling her a ‘faggot’ and ‘Juwanna Mann,’ which is an apparent reference to a movie in which a man dresses as a woman,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit says York’s car was vandalized twice during the time she lived at 3Tree Flats, with one of the incidents involving the smashing of the car windshield. It says at other times she was subjected to threats and harassment from other tenants, who she believes were encouraged to harass her by Jefferson.

According to the lawsuit, management company officials finally had the air conditioning system fixed in her apartment in July 2017, one week after York filed a discrimination complaint against the company with the D.C. Office of Human Rights.

“Ms. York was ultimately forced to move out of the property in September 2017 due to her continuing fear for her safety,” the lawsuit says.

“As a result of Defendants discriminatory treatment, Ms. York has suffered severe physical and emotional distress, which has continued to affect her life in manifestations including disturbed sleeping patterns, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts,” the lawsuit says.

It charges the two defendants with violating federal housing law and federal laws banning sex discrimination and with violating the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The lawsuit says York has requested a jury trial for the case.

An online publication called Multi-Housing News reported that 3Tree Flats opened as a new mixed use residential building in 2011. The report says the developer received funds from the D.C. government and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as part of a local-federal program to encourage affordable housing units along with market-rate units in the six-story building.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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