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DOJ files sexual harassment lawsuit against Janesville landlords

(Staff)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 7:03 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - A sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against two rental property owners from Janesville for allegedly exploiting their tenants, according to an announcement made by the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday.

It is alleged by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin that property manager Richard Donahue sexually harassed multiple female tenants since 2000 and retaliated in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Donahue’s wife, Mary Donahue, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit since she co-owned some of the properties.

Some of the claims in the complaint allege that Richard Donahue made unwanted sexual comments toward his female tenants, touched their bodies and entered their homes without consent, and offered free or reduced rent for sexual favors.

The report also claims that he punished the women who declined his advances by taking adverse housing-related actions against them.

The Justice Department is asking the court to award damages to the women who made the harassment claims and to impose further civil penalties on Donahue. Additionally, they want a court order to prevent any discrimination in the future.

Timothy M. O’Shea, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, commented on the lawsuit, saying, “No one should have to choose between having a place to live or enduring sexual harassment. Those few Wisconsin landlords who exploit vulnerable tenants for sex violate federal law and will be held accountable.”

Attorney O’Shea created a housing initiative in 2017 to help prevent sexual harassment. The initiative, led by the Civil Rights Division, seeks to address, and create awareness about sexual harassment perpetrated by housing authorities.

So far, 24 alleged sexual harassment in housing lawsuits have been filed by the Department of Justice. Those lawsuits have recovered over $9.5 million for sexual harassment victims.

To report sexual harassment or housing discrimination at the hands of a landlord, contact the United States Attorney’s Office at USAWIWfairhousing@usdoj.gov.

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