Public housing tenants in Baltimore who alleged they were sexually harassed and abused by maintenance workers will share up to $8 million in a settlement of a class-action lawsuit that exposed poor living conditions in the subsidized complexes.

City Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano pledged sweeping changes Friday to ensure that all residents can live in "peace and dignity" without being subjected to "the atrocious behavior of a small group of people who inflicted indignity of an indescribable nature."

"Mistakes have been made here, and some of them very serious," Graziano said at a news conference. He said he has instituted new precedures to guarantee that future cases are fully investigated and employees receive ongoing sexual harassment training. In addition, a new computerized system will allow tenants to request repairs without going through housing authority staff.

The lawsuit, filed in September, said maintenance workers at several complexes demanded sexual favors in exchange for making repairs. When the women did not comply, they said, the repairs were not made — exposing them to unsafe conditions such as mold, lack of heat and risk of electrocution.

Graziano, who has run the city's housing authority for 15 years, did not offer an explanation for the alleged abuse and harassment. He said only that the agency took the strongest possible disciplinary action against the employees involved. A lawyer for the plaintiffs said all of the workers in question have been fired.

Housing Authority reaches settlement agreement in sex-for-repairs scheme

The settlement, which officials called the largest in a sexual harassment case under the Fair Housing Act, will be paid in large part from the housing authority's reserve account, which is funded with about $50 million in federal dollars. A portion, $850,000, will be paid by the housing authority's insurance plan.

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SEE ALSO:

New housing rule protects most vulnerable women from sexual harassment in their home 

* Sex Harrassment and Fair Housing Tool Kit

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