United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald today announced the filing of a lawsuit against property managers/owners REESE PFEIFFER, JEANNE PFEIFFER, MICHAEL FRUEN, and JEREMY MARTINEAU and business entities FRUEN & PFEIFFER, LLP (“F&P”) and M. FRUEN PROPERTIES (“MFP”) (collectively, “Defendants”) for allegedly engaging in a pattern or practice of sexual harassment in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
“This lawsuit alleges sexual harassment and discriminatory conduct against vulnerable tenants. Such behavior is unacceptable and a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act, said U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not tolerate this type of discrimination and stands ready to deploy all available enforcement tools to see that justice is served.”
The complaint, filed today in U.S. District Court, alleges that REESE PFEIFFER, property manager for numerous single-family and multi-family rental properties in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs, subjected multiple female tenants to sexually hostile housing environments. The complaint alleges that REESE PFEIFFER commented on female tenants’ looks and body parts, engaged in unwelcome touching, asked personal questions about their relationship status, made unwelcome sexual advances, discussed sexual topics without consent, and entered their homes under the pretense of collecting rent to solicit sexual favors. The complaint alleges that FRUEN, MARTINEAU, JEANNE PFEIFFER, F&P, and MFP are vicariously liable for PFEIFFER’s discriminatory conduct, because PFEIFFER acted as their agent when he sexually harassed tenants at properties in which they had an ownership interest.
In the complaint, the United States seeks to stop the alleged discrimination, compensate the victims, and payment of civil monetary penalties.
The civil complaint presents allegations only; there has been no determination of liability or wrongdoing. If you believe you have information relevant to this case, please contact the United States Attorney’s Office at (612) 296-3984.
This case is handled by the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota with the assistance of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
The Justice Department’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative is an effort to combat sexual harassment in housing led by the Civil Rights Division, in coordination with U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The Attorney General recently reaffirmed this commitment by directing the Justice Department to deploy all available enforcement tools against anyone who tries to capitalize on the COVID-19 crisis by sexually harassing people in need of housing. The goal of the department’s initiative is to address sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers, or other people who have control over housing. As part of the initiative, the Justice Department developed a public service announcement and formed a joint task force with HUD to combat sexual harassment in housing. Since launching the Initiative in October 2017, the Department of Justice has filed 18 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment in housing.
If you think you are a victim of sexual harassment by a landlord, or other forms of housing discrimination, contact the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at (800) 896-7743 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600