Athens County landlord faces federal sexual harassment suit

The lawsuit says Joseph Earl Lucas of Amesville sexually harassed female tenants since at least 2004.

AMESVILLE, Ohio — The U.S. Department of Justice announced a lawsuit yesterday against Athens County landlord Joseph Earl Lucas, of Amesville, for sexually harassing female tenants since at least 2004.

The lawsuit says Lucas, 83, engaged in many behaviors toward female tenants and housing applicants that constitute sexual harassment. These include: 

  • Requesting sex;
  • Threatening tenants who refused advances with loss of housing;
  • Offering housing benefits to tenants who accepted his advances;
  • Repeatedly driving by the homes of tenants;
  • Entering the homes of female tenants without permission;
  • Subjecting female tenants to unwelcome sexual touching;
  • Making unwelcome sexual comments to female tenants;
  • Initiating evictions against tenants for refusing his advances. 

Lucas, who declined to comment for this story, has owned and managed over 70 properties across Athens County for a number of years. These properties are located in Amesville, Athens, Chauncey, Chesterhill, Coolville, Corning, Glouster, Jacksonville, Millfield, Nelsonville, New Marshfield, The Plains, Stewart and Trimble, according to the complaint.


The lawsuit alleges four separate examples of Lucas’s behavior from 2004–2022:

  • In 2004, Lucas told a prospective female tenant that they could “figure something out” if she was unable to pay rent, with a sexualized tone of voice and body language.
  • In 2012, Lucas subjected a female tenant to unwelcome sexual comments and frequently entered her home unannounced, using his key. He suggested he would accept sex “or whatever” in exchange for reducing rent.
  • In 2019, Lucas repeatedly drove past the home of a pregnant female tenant. He repeatedly entered the home unannounced, with his key, when she was home alone. He peered into her bathroom while she was showering. He also offered to forgive owed rent in exchange for sex. When she declined, he filed an eviction action against her. She was forced to move as a result.
  • From 2016 to at least 2022, Lucas engaged in repeated unwanted sex and sexual contact with a female tenant in exchange for reducing her rent. He repeatedly threatened her with eviction if she declined his requests, “or after observing her with other men.” He would require her to end relationships with men before dropping the threat of eviction.

These were not the only instances of Lucas’s sexual harassment toward tenants, the lawsuit says. The lawsuit brings claims against Lucas under the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing accommodations.

The suit seeks monetary damages for Lucas’s alleged victims “to restore, as nearly as practicable, the victims of Defendant’s past unlawful practices to the position they would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct.”

According to the DOJ press release, the lawsuit resulted from a joint investigation of the DOJ and the Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General. The Independent has requested a copy of the complete investigation.

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The HUD-OIG did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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