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Sober-home operator charged with soliciting sex, nudes from women tenants in exchange for reduced rent and other favors

The federal government today accused a Dorchester man who runs a series of "sober homes" in Dorchester, Roxbury and Lynn of violating the federal Fair Housing Act through sexual harassment and intimidation over a five-year period.

In a lawsuit filed in US District Court in Boston, the US Attorney's office charged that Peter McCarthy of Steps to Solutions "subjected many female tenants of the sober homes to discrimination based on sex, including unwelcome severe, pervasive, and quid pro quo sexual harassment on multiple occasions," by demanding sex or sometimes just nude photos in exchange for favors such as breaks in rent or overnight passes to stay with a relative.

Unlike halfway houses, such as one approved for Lower Mills yesterday, sober homes are not regulated by the city or state. In the suit, the government said McCarthy rents entire houses, then rents out rooms to people trying to get sober, including houses at 27 Lithgow St. in Dorchester and 9 Kearsarge St. in Roxbury.

In one case, the government alleges, McCarthy told one woman that their kids could play together while he and she had sex in exchange for a pass to spend a night with her mother.

In another case, the government charges:

In or around 2019, Defendant McCarthy sent sexually explicit text messages to a female resident. McCarthy sent her texts that said “[your] body looks good to me,” “don’t hide that body,” and “send me a shower pic[ture].” The female resident stated that she did text him a sexually explicit photograph because she was behind on rent and feared that McCarthy would kick her out of the sober home if she did not do so.

The government added:

The experiences of these female tenants were not isolated instances. Rather, these instances were part of Defendant McCarthy's longstanding pattern or practice of illegal sexual harassment of numerous female tenants.

The above-described actions and conduct of Defendant McCarthy caused female tenants to suffer physical harm, fear, anxiety, and emotional distress, and inhibited their ability to remain in or secure housing.

In its suit, the government asks a judge to order McCarthy to immediately stop all this and to award damages to the women affected by his actions.

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PDF icon Complete complaint149.56 KB

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Comments

McCarthy’s sober house in Dorchester resulted in the first public hearing and fine levied by mayor menino’s problem properties task force.

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Should I not have done that? I gotta plead ignorance on that one, if someone had told me that that sort of thing was frowned upon...

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Voting closed 27

Would he be in the clear if he did this to men as well?

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Next question?

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Voting closed 63

It seems like the charges are based on the "discrimination of sex." I'm not sure why if he had done that to both men and women there would be discrimination based on sex.

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In employment and housing discrimination cases, discrimination based on sex has been deemed to apply in cases of sexual harassment, discrimination or harassment related to pregnancy, discrimination or harassment related to sexual orientation, etc. So regardless of the person's sex or gender, it's applicable when someone is basing their decisions about someone on whether they'll send nudes, whether they'll have raunchy conversations, or how hawt they look in those shorts. It doesn't only apply strictly to treating women, men, or nonbinary folks differently from one another.

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Voting closed 42

In 2016 HUD specifically added a rule clarifying that quid pro quo interactions like this are illegal, which is what they’re alluding to in 22.d of the complaint - so read the complaint more closely! And if a male landlord was sexually coercing men then he would almost certainly be victimizing single gay men, which would be its own problem.

But what exactly is your point? It sounds like you are saying “you can’t discriminate against both men and women,” which is just plain ignorant. Discrimination is not about discerning what’s in a person’s heart - it’s about their actions. What you are describing is still sexual discrimination against both men and women based on their physical appearance and absolutely against the FHA. It is probably true that emphasizing the discrimination against women makes the charges more airtight but your legal analysis is just plain wrong.

Going a bit further: landlords and employers can certainly discriminate against both men and women. A restaurant manager who refuses to hire women for cooking positions or men for waitstaff positions is in fact unlawfully discriminating against both men and women. It doesn’t matter if “deep down” he doesn’t have a problem with (heteronormative) men, his actions are still illegal.

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How is that legal? Are we supposed to believe that the typical Hooters waitstaff-crew is not forged primarily by discrimination based on gender, age, and physical appearance?

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The law allows for bona fide occupation qualifications (BFOQ) in hiring/employment, meaning that an employer can require a certain sex or even race or other normally discriminatory category if it is a truly necessary part of the job.

For example:
* Requiring a locker room attendant to be of the same sex as the users.
* Requiring a person of African heritage for a role in a movie.
* Requiring a person hired to do security pat-downs be of a certain sex.

Physical appearance is (generally) not a protected category. An employer can require actors, models, those facing the public to be have a certain look. I believe Hooters has used the "the women are performers" defense.

The interpretation of the law is more complex than that, but employers have more latitude than one might think.

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The very helpful answer!

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His bio does note, "I have enjoyed many rekindled bonds with family and friends." He's a rekindler...

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If true, that's awful. Sounds like a person who's supposed to be helping vulnerable people preyed upon them.

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Here he is claiming some nonsense in 2012:

https://www.bostonherald.com/2012/11/19/head-of-sober-house-dont-blame-u...

bonus - a photo of the creep so you can avoid him in the future.

It's not important but I always feel bad for the other people with same relatively common name when something like this happens. It's one thing if a Ted Kaczynski is a famous criminal, but how many Peter McCarthys must there be in metro Boston?

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