Justice Department Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Against Janesville Rental Property Owners
(STL.News) The U.S. 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 Timothy M. O’Shea, U.S. Attorney 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. Attorney’s 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.