The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against Richard and Mary Donahue, owners of rental properties in the Janesville, Wisconsin area, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, alleges that Richard Donahue, who manages the properties, sexually harassed numerous female tenants since at least 2000. According to the complaint, Donahue made repeated and unwelcome sexual comments to female tenants, entered the homes of female tenants without their consent, touched female tenants’ bodies without their consent, requested sexual contact, offered reduced or free rent in exchange for sexual contact and took adverse housing-related actions against female tenants who refused his sexual advances. The lawsuit also names as a defendant Mary Donahue, Richard Donahue’s wife, who co-owns some of the properties.
Today’s lawsuit seeks monetary damages to compensate persons harmed by the alleged harassment, civil penalties to vindicate the public interest and a court order barring future discrimination. The complaint contains allegations of unlawful conduct; the allegations must be proven in federal court.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe at home, but sexual harassment in housing destroys that security,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act against landlords who engage in this kind of predatory and illegal behavior.”
“No one should have to choose between having a place to live or enduring sexual harassment,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy M. O’Shea for the Western District of Wisconsin. “Those few Wisconsin landlords who exploit vulnerable tenants for sex violate federal law and will be held accountable.”
The Justice Department launched its Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative in October 2017. The department’s initiative is led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country. The goal of the initiative is to address and raise awareness about sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing. Since launching the initiative, the department of Justice has filed 24 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing and recovered over $9.5 million for victims of such harassment.
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at http://www.justice.gov/crt.
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of sexual harassment or other types of housing discrimination at rental dwellings owned or managed by the Donahues, or who have other information that may be relevant to this case, can contact the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-833-591-0291, select a language, and select option number 2, then option number 4 to leave a message. Individuals may also contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin at (608) 264-5158. Individuals may also e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a report online.
If you think you are a victim of sexual harassment by a landlord, or other forms of housing discrimination, you may contact the Justice Department by submitting a report online or contacting the U.S. Attorney’s Office at USAWIWemail@example.com.
Reports also may be made by contacting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777 or by filing a complaint online.