MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Justice Department on Monday announced that a consent decree has been obtained in a Minneapolis landlord sexual harassment lawsuit, and the victims will receive a total of $736,000.
The consent decree resolves a lawsuit the department filed in September 2019 that alleged Reese Pfeiffer violated the Fair Housing Act (FHA) by subjecting 23 women to “severe and repeated sexual harassment and retaliation” at the Minneapolis area residential properties, the Justice department said.
The defendants in the lawsuit include Reese Pfeiffer, Jeanne Pfeiffer, Michael Fruen and Jeremy Martineau and business entities Fruen & Pfeiffer LLP and M. Fruen Properties. According to the complaint, the co-defendants are “vicariously liable” for Reese Pfeiffer’s conduct because he acted as their agent.
Reese Pfeiffer allegedly commented on the female tenants’ looks and body parts, engaged in unwelcome touching and would offer “rent benefits” — like excusing late or unpaid rent — in exchange for sexual favors, the Justice Department said.
“All people deserve to feel safe in their homes,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “Sexual harassment in housing deprives individuals of that security. The Justice Department will not tolerate landlords who abuse their power by sexually harassing their tenants and will continue to work resolutely to hold such persons accountable and obtain relief for their victims.”
— U.S. Attorney MN (@DMNnews) October 25, 2021
In addition to the $736,000 in compensation for the victims of the alleged harassment, the defendants must pay $14,000 in a civil penalty to the United States. Reese Pfeiffer is also permanently barred from property management.
The defendants will also undergo education and training on the FHA.